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Cornell University Library 
PS2110.F07 
V.16 

The novels and tales of Henry James. 





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THE NOVELS AND TALES OF 
HENRY JAMES 



New York Edition 

VOLUME XVI 



The New England Street 



THE 

AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

THE MIDDLE YEARS 

GREVILLE FANE 
AND OTHER TALES 

BY 

HENRY JAMES 



''■ 


g 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1909 



Copyright, 1902 and 1909, by Charles Scribner's Sons 

The Author of Beltraffio. Copyright, 1884 and 1885, by Henry James 

The Middle Years. Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers 

Greville Fane. Copyright, 1893, by Macmillan & Company 

Broken Wings. Copyright, 1903, by Charles Scribner's Sons 

The Tree of Knowledge. Copyright, 1 900, by The Macmillan Company 

The Abasement of the Northmores. Copyright, 1 900, by The Macmillan Company 

The Great Good Place. Copyright, 1900, by The Macmillan Company 

Four Meetings. Copyright, 1884 and 1885, by Henry James 

Paste. Copyright, 1900, by The Macmillan Company 

"Europe." Copyright, 1900, by The Macmillan Company 

Miss Gunton of Poughlceepsie. Copyright, 1900, by The Macmillan Company 



Published under special arrangement with 
Houghton, Mifflin & Company, Harper & Brothers, and The Macmillan Company 



PREFACE 

What I had lately and most particularly to say of " The 
Coxon Fund" is no less true of "The Middle Years," 
first published in Scribner's Magazine (1893) — that recol- 
lection mainly and most promptly associates with it the 
number of times I had to do it over to make sure of it. To 
get it right was to squeeze my subject into the five or 
six thousand words I had been invited to make it consist 
of — it consists, in fact, should the curious care to 
know, of some 5550 — and I scarce perhaps recall another 
case, with the exception I shall presently name, in which 
my struggle to keep compression rich, if not, better still, to 
keep accretions compressed, betrayed for me such commun- 
ity with the anxious effort of some warden of the insane 
engaged at a critical moment in making fast a victim's 
straitjacket. The form of " The Middle Years " is not that 
of the nouvelU, but that of the concise anecdote ; whereas 
the subject treated would perhaps seem one comparatively 
demanding " developments " — if indeed, amid these mys- 
teries, distinctions were so absolute. (There is of course 
neither close nor fixed measure of the reach of a develop- 
ment, which in some connexions seems almost superfluous 
and then in others to represent the whole sense of the mat- 
ter; and we should doubtless speak more thoroughly by book 
had we some secret for exactly tracing deflexions and re- 
turns.) However this may be, it was as an anecdote, an 
anecdote only, that I was determined my little situation here 
should figure ; to which end my effort was of course to fol- 
low it as much as possible from its outer edge in, rather than 
from its centre outward. That fond formula, I had alas 
already discovered, may set as many traps in the garden as 
its opposite may set in the wood ; so that after boilings and 
reboilings of the contents of my small cauldron, after added 

V 



PREFACE 

pounds of salutary sugar, as numerous as those prescribed 
in the choicest recipe for the thickest jam, I well remember 
finding the whole process and act (which, to the exclusion 
of everything else, dragged itself out for a month) one of the 
most expensive of its sort in which I had ever engaged. 

But I recall, by good luck, no less vividly how much 
finer a sweetness than any mere spooned^out saccharine 
dwelt in the fascination of the questions involved. Treating 
a theme that "gave" much in a form that, at the best, 
would give little, might indeed represent a peck of troubles ; 
yet who, none the less, beforehand, was to pronounce with 
authority such and such an idea anecdotic and such and 
such another developmental ? One had, for the vanity of a 
priori wisdom here, only to be so constituted that to see any 
form of beauty, for a particular application, proscribed or 
even questioned, was forthwith to covet that form more 
than any other and to desire the benefit of it exactly there. 
One had only to be reminded that for the effect of quick 
roundness the small smooth situation, though as intense as 
one will, is prudently indicated, and that for a fine compli- 
cated entangled air nothing will serve that does n't naturally 
swell and bristle — one had only, I say, to be so warned 
off or warned on, to see forthwith no beauty for the simple 
thing that should n't, and even to perversity, enrich it, and 
none for the other, the comparatively intricate, that should n't 
press it out as a mosaic. After which fashion the careful 
craftsman would have prepared himself the special inviting 
treat of scarce being able to say, at his highest infatuation, 
before any series, which might be the light thing weighted 
and which the dense thing clarified. The very attempt so 
to discriminate leaves him in fact at moments even a little 
ashamed ; whereby let him shirk here frankly certain of the 
issues presented by the remainder of our company — there 
being, independently of these mystic matters, other remarks 
to make. Blankness overtakes me, I confess, in connexion 
with the brief but concentrated " Greville Fane " — that 
emerges, how concentrated I tried to make it — which 
must have appeared in a London weekly journal at the 

vi 



PREFACE 

beginning of the " nineties " ; but as to which I further re- 
tain only a dim warm pleasantness as of old Kensington 
summer hours. I re-read, ever so kindly, to the promotion 
of a mild aftertaste — that of a certain feverish pressure, in 
a cool north room resorted to in heavy London Augusts, 
with stray, rare echoes of the town, beyond near roofs and 
chimneys, making harmless detonations, and with the per- 
ception, over my page, as I felt poor Greville grow, that 
her scant record, to be anything at all, would have to be 
a minor miracle of foreshortening. For here is exactly an 
illustrative case : the subject, in this little composition, is 
"developmental" enough, while the form has to make the 
anecdotic concession; and yet who shall say that for the 
right effect of a small harmony the fusion has failed ? We 
desire doubtless a more detailed notation of the behaviour of 
the son and daughter, and yet had I believed the right effect 
missed " Greville Fane " would n't have figured here. 

-Nothing, by the same stroke, could well have been con-.,^ 
demi^d to strugglemoreToT that harmony than " The Abase- 
ment of the Northmores '- and*'- The Tree of Knowledge "f" 
the' ideain" these examples (1900) being jdexelopmental 
with a vengeance and the need of an apparent ,e,ase,3.a4..a' 
general congruity having to enforce, none the less -^ as on 

"behalf of some victim of the income-tax who would.mimmise 

^"K^^'f' return "— an almost heroic dissimulation of capital. 
TQiesethings, especially the former, are novels intensely 
compr^eiST^'Iw'th'that character in them yet keeping at, 

"Bl^'iHi'd'er stress of their failing else to be good short stories, 
,aflj*'aTf of mutilation. They had had to be good short stories 
iiroi'der to earn, however precariously, their possible wage 
and"'Sppear "■ — so certain was it that there would be- no 
^I^S8^BC||^_and conse(juenjly,j}Or wage,, fox them as frank 
and brave nouveltes. They could but conceal the fact that I 
"Hiev^w^T^yn g u v ells.p''; they could but masquerade, as little 
anecdotes. X include-them here .by reason of that successfixl, 

•"that achieved and consummate-^ as it strikes me — duplicity : 
which7however ,Tr rnay add, was in the- e:Kent„to alvitQhenL, 
intiir^r- since they were to_find^o;^ere, thejmfortu^^ 

vii 



PREFACE 

Iw^itallty an^ the rewgiji-oiE'.their e&rt. It is to " The T, 
ofXnowleclge" I referred just above, I may further m( 
tion, as the production that had cost me, for keeping 
" down," even a greater number of full revolutions of 1 
merciless screws than "The Middle Years." On behalf a 
of this member of the group, as well as for " The Author 
Beltraffio," I recover exceptionally the sense of the gn 
of suggastion, the tiny air-blown particle. In presence o 
small interesting example of a young artist long dead, a 
whom I had yet briefly seen and was to remember with kir 
ness, a friend had made, thanks to a still greater persoJ 
knowledge of him and of his quasi-conspicuous father, lil 
wise an artist, one of those brief remarks that the dramat 
feels as fertilising. " And then," the lady I quote had s; 
in allusion to certain troubled first steps of the young mai 
career, to complications of consciousness that had m: 
his early death perhaps less strange and less lamentab 
even though superficially more tragic ; " and then he h 
found his father out, artistically: having grown up in 
happy a personal relation with him only to feel, at last, qu 
awfully, that he did n't and could n't believe in him." Tl 
fell on one 's ear of course only to prompt the inward cr 
" How can there possibly not be all sorts of good things 
it ? " Just so for " The Author of Beltraffio " — long befc 
this and some time before the first appearance of the tale 
The English Illustrated Magazine (1884): it had been s: 
to me of an eminent author, these several years dead a 
on some of the embarrassments of whose life and characi 
a common friend was enlarging : " Add to them all, moi 
over, that his wife objects intensely to what he writes. S 
can't bear it (as you can for that matter rather easily cc 
ceive) and that naturally creates a tension — ! " There h 
come the air-blown grain which, lodged in a handful 
kindly earth, was to produce the story of Mark Ambient. 
Elliptic, I allow, and much of a skipping of stages, 
bare an account of such performances ; yet with the cons 
tutive process for each idea quite sufficiently noted by r 
having had, always, only to say to myself sharply enoug 

viii 



PREFACE 

" Dramatise it, dramatise it ! " That answered, in the con- 
nexion, always, all my questions — that provided for all my 
" fun." The two tales 1 have named but represent therefore 
their respective grains of seed dramatically handled. In the 
case of " Broken Wings" (1900), however, I but see to- 
day the produced result — I fail to disinter again the buried 
germ. Little matters it, no doubt, that I recall as operative 
here the brush of no winged word ; for when had I heen, as 
a fellow scribbler, closed to the general admonition of such 
adventures as poor Mrs. Harvey's, the elegant representative 
of literature at Mundham ? — to such predicaments as Stu- 
art Straith's, gallant victim of the same hospitality and with 
the same confirmed ache beneath his white waistcoat ? The 
appeal of mature purveyors obliged, in the very interest of 
their presumed, their marketable, freshness, to dissimulate 
the grim realities of shrunken " custom," the felt chill of a 
lower professional temperature — any old note-book would 
show that laid away as a tragic " value " not much less 
tenderly than some small plucked flower of association left 
between the leaves for pressing. What had happened here, 
visibly, was that the value had had to wait long to become 
active. " Dramatise, dramatise, dramatise ! " had been just 
there more of an easy admonition than of a ready feat ; 
the case for dramatisation was somehow not whole. Under 
some forgotten touch, however, at its right hour, it was to 
round itself. What the single situation lacked the pair of 
situations would supply — there was drama enough, with 
economy, from the moment sad companions, looking each 
other, with their identities of pluck and despair, a little hard 
in the face, should confess each to the other, relievingly, 
what they kept from every one else. With the right en- 
counter and the right surprise, that is with the right persons, 
postulated, the relief, if in the right degree exquisite, might 
be the drama — and the right persons, in fine, to make it ex- 
quisite, were Stuart Straith and Mrs. Harvey. There remains 
" The Great Good Place " (1900) — to the spirit of which, 
however, it strikes me, any gloss or comment would be a 
tactless challenge. It embodies a calculated effect, and to 

ix 



PREFACE 

plunge into it, I find, even for a beguiled glance — a course 
I indeed recommend — is to have left all else outside. There 
then my indications must wait. 

The origin of " Paste " is rather more expressible, since 
it was to consist but of the ingenious thought of transposing 
the terms of one of Guy de Maupassant's admirable contes. 
In " La Parure" a poor young woman, under "social" stress, 
the need of making an appearance on an important occasion, 
borrows from an old school friend, now much richer than 
herself, a pearl necklace which she has the appalling misfor- 
tune to lose by some mischance never afterwards cleared up. 
Her life and her pride, as well as her husband's with them, 
become subject, from the hour of the awful accident, to the 
redemption of their debt ; which, effort by effort, sacrifice 
by sacrifice, franc by franc, with specious pretexts, excuses, 
a rage of desperate explanation of their failure to restore the 
missing object, they finally obliterate — all to find that their 
whole consciousness and life have been convulsed and de- 
formed in vain, that the pearls were but highly artful " imita- 
tion " and that their passionate penance has ruined them for 
nothing. It seemed harmless sport simply to turn that situa- 
tion round — to shift, in other words, the ground of the hor- 
rid mistake, making this a matter not of a false treasure 
supposed to be true and precious, but of a real treasure sup- 
posed to be false and hollow : though a new little " drama," 
a new setting for my pearls — and as different as possible from 
the other — had of course withal to be found. 

" Europe," which is of 1899, when it appeared in Scrih- 
ner's Magazine, conspicuously fails, on the other hand, to 
disown its parentage ; so distinct has its « genesis" remained 
to me. I had preserved for long years an impression of an 
early time, a visit, in a sedate American city — for there 
■were such cities then — to an ancient lady whose talk, whose 
allusions and relics and spoils and mementoes and creden- 
tials, so to call them, bore upon a triumphant sojourn in 
Europe, long years before, in the hey-day of the high 
scholarly reputation of her husband, a dim displaced super- 
seded celebrity at the time of my own observation. They 

X 



PREFACE 

had been " much made of," he and she, at various foreign 
centres of polite learning, and above all in the England of 
early Victorian days ; and my hostess had lived ever since 
on the name and fame of it ; a treasure of legend and anec- 
dote laid up against the comparatively lean half-century, or 
whatever, that v/as to follow. For myself even, after this, 
a good slice of such a period had elapsed ; yet with my con- 
tinuing to believe that fond memory would still somehow be 
justified of this scrap too, along with so many others : the 
unextinguished sense of the temperature of the January 
morning on which the little Sunday breakfast-party, at half- 
past nine across the snow, had met to the music of a chilly 
ghostly kindly tinkle ; that of the roomful of cherished echoes 
and of framed and glazed, presented and autographed and 
thumb-marked mementoes — the wealth of which was some- 
how explained (this was part of the legend) by the ancient, 
the at last almost prehistoric, glory of like matutinal hours, 
type and model of the emulous shrunken actual. 

The justification I awaited, however, only came much 
later, on my catching some tender mention of certain 
admirable ladies, sisters and spinsters under the maternal 
roof, for whom the century was ebbing without remedy 
brought to their eminent misfortune (such a ground of sym- 
pathy always in the "good old" American days when the 
touching case was still possible) of not having "been to 
Europe." Exceptionally prepared by culture for going, they 
yet could n't leave their immemorial mother, the headspring, 
precisely, of that grace in them, who on the occasion of 
each proposed start announced her approaching end — only 
to postpone it again after the plan was dished and the flight 
relinquished. So the century ebbed, and so Europe altered — 
for the worse — and so perhaps even a little did the sisters 
who sat in bondage; only so didn't at all the immemorial, 
the inextinguishable, the eternal mother. Striking to the last 
degree, I thought, that obscure, or at least that muffled, 
tragedy, which had the further interest of giving me on the 
spot a setting for my own so long uninserted gem and of 
enabling me to bring out with maximum confidence my in- 

xi 



PREFACE 

veterate " Dramatise ! " " Make this one with such projec- 
tion as you are free to permit yourself of the brooding parent 
in the other case," I duly remarked, " and the whole thing 
falls together; the paradise the good sisters are apparently 
never to attain becoming by this conversion just the social 
cake on which they have always been fed and that has so 
notoriously opened their appetite." Or something of that 
sort. I recognise that I so but express here the " plot " of 
my tale as it stands ; except for so far as my formula, " some- 
thing of that sort," was to make the case bristle with as 
many vivid values, with as thick and yet as clear a little 
complexity of interest, as possible. The merit of the thing 
is in the feat, once more, of the transfusion ; the receptacle 
(of form) being so exiguous, the brevity imposed so great. 
I undertook the brevity, so often undertaken on a like scale 
before, and again arrived at it by the innumerable repeated 
chemical reductions and condensations that tend to make of 
the very short story, as I risk again noting, one of the cost- 
liest, even if, like the hard, shining sonnet, one of the most 
indestructible, forms of composition in general use. I ac- 
cepted the rigour of its having, all sternly, in this case, to 
treat so many of its most appealing values as waste ; and I 
now seek my comfort perforce in the mere exhibited result, 
the union of whatever fulness with whatever clearness. 

HENRY JAMES. 



CONTENTS 

THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO i 

THE MIDDLE YEARS 75 

GREVILLE FANE 107 

BROKEN WINGS 135 

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 165 
THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 191 

THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 223 

FOUR MEETINGS 265 

PASTE 313 

EUROPE 339 

MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 371 

FORDHAM CASTLE 393 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 



THE 
AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 



Much as I wished to see him I had kept my letter 
of introduction three weeks in my pocket-book. 
I was nervous and timid about meeting him — con- 
scious of youth and ignorance, convinced that he was 
tormented by strangers, and especially by my country- 
people, and not exempt from the suspicion that he 
had the irritability as well as the dignity of genius. 
Moreover, the pleasure, if it should occur — for I 
could scarcely believe it was near at hand — would 
be so great that I wished to think of it in advance, to 
feel it there against my breast, not to mix it with 
satisfactions more superficial and usual. Jn thp littlp 
^a yne. n f npw gpn s atinns fhat T was pla jfi ng with my 
ihgenunns min d I wished to keep my visit to the 
author of " Beltraffio " as a trump-card. It was three 
years after the publication of that fascinating work, 
which I had read over five times and which now, 
with my riper judgement, I admire on the whole as 
much as ever. This will give you about the date of 
my first visit — of any duration — to England ; for 
you will not have forgotten the commotion, laagy 
e ^n say the sca ndal, produ ced by Mark Ambient's_ 
.nusterpiece. It~was the most complete presentation 

3 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

that had yet been made of the gospgLo^Uti *' '^^^ ^ 
kind of aesthetic war-cry. People had endeavoured to 
sail nearer to "truth" in the cut of their sleeves and 
the shape of their sideboards; but there had not as 
yet been, among English novels, such an example 
of beauty of execution and " intimate " importance of 
theme. Nothing had been done in that line from the 
point of view of art for art. That served me as a fond 
formula, I may mention, when I was twenty-five; how 
much it still serves I won't take upon myself to say — 
especially as the discerning reader will be able to judge 
for himself. I had been in England, briefly, a twelve- 
month before the time to which I began by alluding, 
and had then learned that Mr. Ambient was in distant 
lands — was making a considerable tour in the East; 
so that there was nothing to do but to keep my letter 
till I should be in London again. It was of little use 
to me to hear that his wife had not left England and 
was, with her Httle boy, their only child, spending 
the period of her husband's absence — a good many 
months — at a small place they had down in Surrey. 
They had a house in London, but actually in the 
occupation of other persons. All this I had picked up, 
and also that Mrs. Ambient was charming — my 
friend the American poet, from whom I had my intro- 
duction, had never seen her,._his ji:glationg .with -the 
great man confinedpto the exchan g e of letters: but she 
was n't, after all, though she had lived so near the 
rose, the author of " Beltraffio," and I did n't go 
down into Surrey to call on her. I went to the. Con- 
tinent, spent the following winter in Italy and re- 
turned to London in May. My visit to Italy had 

4 " 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 
opened m^^.^LJta-a--g©0d-iii^y jthiiigs,^***^-*^ 



thin g mor e than the beauty o flxeFta in pages in thc - 
wrtrlfQ nf Marlr Amt)ifflt I Carried his productions 
about in my trunk — they are not, as you know, very 
numerous, but he had preluded to " BeltrafEo " by 
some exquisite things — and I used to read them over 
in the evening at the inn. I used profou ndly to reason 
that the man who drew those characters and wrote 
that style understood what he saw and knew what he 
was doing. This is my sole ground for mentioning my 
winter in Italy. He had been there much in former 
years — he was saturated with what painters call 
the "feeling" of that classic land. He expressed the 
charm of the old hill-cities of Tuscany, the look of 
certain lonely grass-grown places which, in the past, 
had echoed with life; he understood the great artists, 
he understood the spirit of the Renaissance; he under- 
stood everything. The scene of one of his earlier 
novels was laid in Rome, the scene of another in Flor- 
ence, and I had moved through these cities in com- 
pany with the figures he set so firmly on their feet. 
This is why I was now so much happier even than 
before in the prospect of making his acquaintance. 
At last, when I had dallied with my privilege 
long enough, I dispatched to him the missive of the 
American poet. He had already gone out of town; he 
shrank from the rigour of the London "season," and 
it was his habit to migrate on the first of June. More- 
over I had heard he was this year hard at work on a 
new book, into which some of his impressions of 
the East were to be wrought, so that he desired no- 
thing so much as quiet days. That knowledge,' 

5 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

however, did n't prevent me — cet age est sans pitte 
— from sending with my friend's letter a note of my 
own, in which I asked his leave to come down and 
see him for an hour or two on some day to be named 
by himself. My proposal was accompanied with a 
very frank expression of my sentiments, and the effect 
of the entire appeal was to elicit from the great man 
the kindest possible invitation. He would be de- 
lighted to see me, especially if I should turn up on 
the following Saturday and would remain till the 
Monday morning. We would take a walk over the 
Surrey commons, and I could tell him all about the 
other great man, the one in America. He indicated 
to me the best train, and it may be imagined whether 
on the Saturday afternoon I was punctual at Waterloo. 
He carried his benevolence to the point of coming to 
meet me at the little station at which I was to alight, 
and my heart beat very fast as I saw his handsome 
face, surmounted with a soft wide-awake and which 
I knew by a photograph long since enshrJB sd-Pn m y 
mantel-shd^ scanning the__carriage=windows_,a&,the 
train rolliidLup, He recognised me as infallibly as I 
had recognised himself; he appeared to know by 
instinct how a young American of critical pretensions, 
rash youth, would look when much divided between 
eagerness and modesty. He took me by the hand and 
smiled at me and said : "You must be — a — you, I 
think ! " and asked if I should mind going on foot to 
his house, which would take but a few minutes. I 
remember feeling it a piece of extraordinary affability 
that he should give directions about the conveyance 
of my bag; I remember feeling altogether very happy 

6 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

and rosy, in fact quite transported, when he laid his 
hand on my shoulder as we came out of the sta- 
tion. 

I surveyed him, askance, as we walked together; 
I had already, I had indeed instantly, seen him as all 
delightful. His face is so well known that I need n't 
describe it; he looked to me at once an English gentle- 
man and a man of genius, and I thought that a happy 
combination. There was a brush of the Bohemian in 
his fineness; you would easily have guessed his be- 
longing to the artist guild. He was addicted to velvet 
jackets, to cigarettes, to loose shirt-collars, to looking 
a little dishevelled. His features, which were firm 
but not perfectly regular, are fairly enough repre- 
sented in his portraits; but no portrait I have seen 
gives any idea of his expression. There were innum- 
erable things in it, and they chased each other in and 
out of his face. I have seen people who were grave 
and gay in quick alternation; but Mark Ambient 
was grave and gay at one and the same moment. 
There were other strange oppositions and contra- 
dictions in his slightly faded and fatigued countenance. 
He aifected me somehow as at once fresh and stale, 
at once anxious and indifferent. He had evidently 
had an active past, which inspired one with curiosity; 
yet what was that compared to his obvious future ? 
He was just enough above middle height to be spoken 
of as tall, and rather lean and long in the flank. He 
had the friendliest frankest manner possible, and yet 
I could see it cost him something. It cost him small 
spasms of the self-consciousness that is an English- 
man's last and dearest treasure — the thing he pays 

7 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

his way through life by sacrificing small pieces of 
even as the gallant but moneyless adventurer in 
"Quentin Durward " broke off links of his brave gold 
chain. He had been thirty-eight years old at the time 
"Beltraffio" was published. He asked me about his 
friend in America, about the length of my stay in 
England, about the last news in London and the 
people I had seen there; and I remember looking 
for the signs of genius in the very form of his questions 
and thinking I found it. I liked his voice as if I were 
somehow myself having the use of it. 

There was genius in his house too I thought when 
we got there; there was imagination in the carpets 
and curtains, ip the pictures and books^in-the-garden 
behind jf, wbpr^rprfrain n\A hrnwn walls vpere miiffled 
in"^reepers-that appeared t o me to h ave been copied 
frbm a m_asl;£rpi£c&-Q£-one-Q f the~pre-Raph"a elites. 
Th^wiut-thf. way rri^ny fhing;; sfriirk m^* ^f^fhaf 

tiine,„in_England ?tfi rpprndiirtinns of sofm-thing 

th^Jt_ existed. primariLy_i n ;>rt nr Htpratiirg ^^ was 
jiot-thp pirtMr.£t_jhepoem, the fictiye_pagei_that 
se_emed to me a co pyljEese th jngs^ jriSfilQriginals, 
and the life of happy and Histingu 'gbpH pi^pplp was 
fashioned in their image. Mark Ambient called his 
house a cottage, and I saw afterwards he was right; 
for if it had n't been a co ttage it m ust have been a 
villa, and a villa, in England at lea st, was not a p lace 
io-whtcK^oae-CQuld-fan cy him at home . But it was, 
to my vision, a cottage glorified and translated; 
it jggas a4)alace ^pf art, on_a^sl jgh jly. eedaeed scale — 
and might besides have been the dearest haunt of 
the old English genius loci. It nestled under a cluster 

8 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

of magnificent beeches, it had little creaking lattices 
that opened out of, or into, pendent mats of ivy, and 
gables, and old red tiles, as well as a general aspect 
of being painted in water-colours and inhabited by 
people whose lives^ would go on in chapters and vol- 
iimeSj The lawn seemed to me of extraSrdinaryTx- 
tent, the garden-walls of incalculable height, the 
whole air of the place delightfully still, private, proper 
to itself. "My wife must be somewhere about," 
Mark Ambient said as we went in. "We shall find 
her perhaps — we've about an hour before dinner. 
She may be in the garden. I'll show you my little 
place." 

We passed through the house and into the grounds, 
as I should have called them, which extended into 
the rear. They covered scarce three or four acres, but, 
like the house, were very old and crooked and full 
of traces of long habitation, with inequalities of level 
and little flights of steps — mossy and cracked were 
these — which connected the different parts with 
each other. The limits of the place, cleverly dissimu- 
lated, were muffled in the great verdurous screens. 
They formed, as I remember, a thick loose curtain 
at the further end, in one of the folds of which, as it 
were, we presently made out from afar a little group. 
"Ah there she is!" said Mark Ambient; "and she 
has got the boy." He noted that last fact in a slightly 
different tone from any in which he yet had spoken. ; 
I was n't fully aware of this at the time, but it lingered 
in my ear and I afterwards understood it. 

"Is it your son ?" I enquired, feeling the question 
not to be brilliant. 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

"Yes, my only child. He's always in his mother's 
pocket. She coddles him too much." It came back 
to me afterwards too — the sound of these critical 
words. They were n't petulant ; they expressed rather 
: a sudden coldness, a mechanical submission. We 
went a few steps further, and then he stopped short 
and called the boy, beckoning to him repeatedly. 

"Dolcino, come and see your daddy!" There was 
something in the way he stood still and waited that 
made me think he did it for a purpose. Mrs. Ambient 
had her arm round the child's waist, and he was 
leaning against her knee; but though he moved at 
his father's call she gave no sign of releasing him, 
A lady, apparently a neighbour, was seated near her, 
and before them was a garden-table on which a tea- 
service had been placed. 

Mark Ambient called again, and Dolcino struggled 
in the maternal embrace; but, too tightly held, he 
after two or three fruitless efforts jerked about and 
buried his head deep in his mother's lap. There was 
a certain awkwardness in the scene; I thought it odd 
Mrs. Ambient should pay so little attention to her 
husband. But I would n't for the world have be- 
trayed my thought and, to conceal it, I began loudly 
to rejoice in the prospect of our having tea in the 
garden. "Ah she won't let him come ! " said my host 
with a sigh ; and we went our way till we reached the 
two ladies. He mentioned my name to his wife, and 
I noticed that he addressed her as "My dear," very 
genially, without a trace of resentment at her de- 
tention of the child. The quickness of the transition 
made me vaguely ask myself if he were perchance 

ID 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

henpecked — a shocking surmise which I instantly 
dismissed. Mrs. Ambient was quite such a wife as I 
should have expected him to have; slim and fair, with 
a long neck and pretty eyes and an air of good breed- 
ing. She shone with a certain coldness and prac- 
tised in intercourse a certain bland detachment, but 
she was clothed in gentleness as in one of those vapor- 
ous redundant scarves that„mufflg==:thfe^heroines_DJL- 
Gainsborough_j|idJRpjtTm She had also a vague 
air of race, justified by my afterwards learning that 
she was "connected with the aristocracy." I have 
seen poets married to women of whom it was dif- 
ficult to conceive that they should gratify the poetic 
fancy — women with dull faces and glutinous minds, 
who were none the less, however, excellent wives. 
But there was no obvious disparity in Mark Am- 
bient's union. My hostess — so far as she could be 
called so — delicate and quiet, ift^aJaduterdrass, with 
her beautiful child at her side, was worthy of the 
author of a work so distinguished as " Beltrafiio." 
Round her neck she wore a bla^k^velvet tibboo^of 
which the long ends, tied behind, hung down her 
back, and to which, in front, was attached a minia- 
ture portrait of her little boy. Her smooth shining 
hair was confined in a net. She gave me an adequate 
greeting and Dolcino — I thought this small name of 
endearment delightful — took advantage of her get- 
ting up to slip away from her and go to his father, 
who seized him in silence and held him high for a 
long moment, kissing him several times. 

I had lost no time in observing that the child, not 
more than seven years old, was extraordinarily beauti- 

II 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

ful. Jife^a4 thej^cfiLJofan angel — the eyes, the hair, 
the smil e^ inn oTmrfj tb" m or f-'-^^''" mortal hlnnm . 
There was something that deeply touched, that almost 
alarmed, in his beauty, composed, one would have 
said, of elements too fine and pure for the breath of 
this world. When I spoke to him and he came and 
held out his hand and smiled at me I felt a sudden 
strange pity for him — quite as if he had been an 
orphan or a changeling or stamped with some social 
stigma. It was impossible to be in fact more exempt 
from these misfortunes, and yet, as one kissed him, 
it was hard to keep from murmuring all tenderly 
"Poor Httle devil!" though why one should have 
applied this epithet to a Hving cherub is more than I 
can say. Afterwards indeed I knew a trifle better; 
I grasped the truth of his being too fair to live, won- 
dering at the same time that his parents should n't 
have guessed it and have been in proportionate grief 
and despair. For myself I had no doubt of his evan- 
escence, having already more than once caught in the 
fact the particular infant charm that's as good as a 
death-warrant. 

The lady who had been sitting with Mrs. Ambient 
was a jolly ruddy personage in velveteen and limp 
feathers, whom I guessed to be the vicar's wife — our 
hostess did n't introduce me — and who immediately 
began to talk to Ambient about chrysanthemums. 
This was a safe subject, and yet there was a certain 
surprise for me in seeing the author of " Beltraffio " 
esen Jn su ch su perfici aLx-omnu mlon^with the Church 
gf Englaad.-^His writings implied so much detach- 
ment from that institution, expressed a view of life 

12 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

so profane, as it were, so independent and so little 
likely in general to be thought edifying, that I should 
have expected to find him an object of horror to vicars 
and their ladies — of horror repaid on his own part 
by any amount of effortless derision. This proved 
how little I knew as yet of the English people and their 
extraordinary talent for keeping up their forms, as 
well as of some of the mysteries of Mark Ambient's 
hearth and home. I found afterwards that he had, 
in his study, between nervous laughs and free cigar- 
pufFs, some wonderful comparisons for his clerical 
neighbours; but meanwhile the chrysanthemums 
were a source of harmony, as he and the vicaress 
were equally attached to them, and I was surprised 
at the knowledge they exhibited of this interesting 
plant. The lady's visit, however, had presumably 
been long, and she presently rose for departure and 
kissed Mrs. Ambient. Mark started to walk with her 
to the gate of the grounds, holding Dolcino by the 
hand. 

"Stay with me, darling," Mrs. Ambient said to the 
boy, who had surrendered himself to his father. 

Mark paid no attention to the summons, but Dol- 
cino turned and looked at her in shy appeal. "Can't 
I go with papa ? " 

"Not when I ask you to stay with me." 

"But please don't ask me, mamma," said the child 
in his small clear new voice. 

"I must ask you when I want you. Come to me, 
dearest." And Mrs. Ambient, who had seated herself 
again, held out her long slender slightly too osseous 
hands. 

13 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

Her husband stopped, his back turned to her, but 
without releasing the child. He was still talking to 
the vicaress, but this good lady, I think, had lost the 
thread of her attention. She looked at Mrs. Ambient 
and at Dolcino, and then looked at me, smiling in 
a highly amused cheerful manner and almost to a 
grimace. 

"Papa," said the child, "mamma wants me not to 
go with you." 

"He's very tired — he has run about all day. He 
ought to be quiet till he goes to bed. Otherwise he 
won't sleep." These declarations fell successively and 
very distinctly from Mrs. Ambient's lips. 

Her husband, still without turning round, bent over 
the boy and looked at him in silence. The vicaress 
gave a genial irrelevant laugh and observed that he 
was a precious little pet. "Let him choose," said 
Mark Ambient. "My dear little boy, will you go 
with me or will you stay with your mother ? " 

"Oh it's a shame!" cried the vicar's lady with 
increased hilarity. 

"Papa, I don't think I can choose," the child an- 
swered, making his voice very low and confidential. 
"But I've been a great deal with mamma to-day," 
he then added. 

"And very little with papa! My dear fellow, I 
think you have chosen ! " On which Mark Ambient 
walked off with his son, accompanied by re-echoing 
but inarticulate comments from my fellow visitor. 

His wife had seated herself again, and her fixed 
eyes, bent on the ground, expressed for a few moments 
so much mute agitation that anything I could think 

14 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

of to say would be but a false note. Yet she none the 
less quickly recovered herself, to express the suffi- 
ciently civil hope that I did n't mind having had to 
walk from the station. I reassured her on this point, 
and she went on : "We 've got a thing that might have 
gone for you, but my husband would n't order it." 
After which and another longish pause, broken only 
by my plea that the pleasure of a walk with our friend 
would have been quite what I would have chosen, 
she found for reply: "I believe the Americans walk 
very little." 

"Yes, we always run," I laughingly allowed. 

She looked at me seriously, yet with an absence in 
her pretty eyes. "I suppose your distances are so 
great." 

"Yes, but we break our marches! I can't tell you 
the pleasure to me of finding myself here," I added. 
"I've the greatest admiration for Mr. Ambient." 

"He'll like that. He likes being admired." 

"He must have a very happy life then. He has 
many worshippers." 

"Oh yes, I've seen some of them," she dropped, 
looking away, very far from me, rather as if such a 
vision were before her at the moment. It seemed to 
indicate, her tone, that the sight was scarcely edifying, 
and I guessed her quickly enough to be in no great 
intellectual sympathy with the author of " Beltraffio." 
I thought the fact strange, but somehow, in the glow 
of my own enthusiasm, did n't think it important : 
it only made me wish rather to emphasise that hom- 
age, 

"For me, you know," I returned — doubtless with 

15 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

a due suffisance — "he's quite the greatest of living 
writers." 

"Of course I can't judge. Of course he's very 
clever," she said with a patient cheer. 

"He's nothing less than supreme, Mrs. Ambient! 
There are pages in each of his books of a perfection 
classing them with the greatest things. Accordingly 
for me to see him in this familiar way, in his habit as 
he lives, andjgga r^ntly to find the man as delight- 
f ul as t he artist — well, I can't tell you how much 
too goo Jlto^FeTrue it seems and how great a privilege 
I think it." I knew I was gushing, but I could n't 
help it, and what I said was a good deal less than what 
I felt. I was by no means sure I should dare to say 
even so much as this to the master himself, and there 
was a kind of rapture in speaking it out to his wife 
which was not affected by the fact that, as a wife, 
she appeared peculiar. She listened to me with her 
face grave again and her lips a little compressed, list- 
ened as if in no doubt, of course, that her husband 
was remarkable, but as if at the same time she had 
heard it frequently enough and could n't treat it as 
stirring news. There was even in her manner a sug- 
gestion that I was so young as to expose myself to 
being called forward — an imputation and a word 
I had always loathed; as well as a hinted reminder 
that people usually got over their early extravagance. 
" I assure you that for me this is a red-letter day," I 
added. 

She did n't take this up, but after a pause, looking 
round her, said abruptly and a trifle dryly: "We're 
very much afraid about the fruit this year." 

l6 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

My eyes wandered to the mossy mottled garden- 
walls, where plum-trees and pears, flattened and 
fastened upon the rusty bricks, iooJaed 4ik©-erucifi£d_.. 
figyjes with m^^i-arms^-" Does n't it promise well ? " 

"No, the trees look very dull. We had such late 
frosts." 

Then there was another pause. She addressed her 
attention to the opposite end of the grounds, kept it 
for her husband's return with the child. "Is Mr, 
Ambient fond of gardening ? " it occurred to me to ask, 
irresistibly impelled as I felt myself, moreover, to 
bring the conversation constantly back to him. 

"He's very fond of plums," said his wife. 

"Ah well then I hope your crop will be better than 
you fear. It 's a lovely old place," I continued. "The 
whole impression's that of certain places he has 
described. Your house is like one of hi s pictures. " 

She seemed a bit frigidly amused at my glow. " It 's 
a pleasant little place. There are hundreds like it." 

"Oh it has his tone" I laughed, but sounding my 
epithet and insisting on my point the more sharply 
that my companion appeared to see in my apprecia- 
tion of her simple estabhshment a mark of mean 
experience. 

It was clear I insisted too much. "His tone ? " she 
repeated with a harder look at me and a slightly 
heightened colour. 

"Surely he has a tone, Mrs. Ambient." 

"Oh yes, he has indeed! But- I-don!t_injth£=least 
consider fhaf I ' mliving i n one of his_b oQ ks at all. 
I should n't care for that in the least," she went on 
with a smile that had in some degree the effect of con- 

17 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

verting her really sharp protest into an insincere 
joke. "I'm afraid I'm not very literary. And I'm 
not artistic," she stated. 

" I 'm very sure you 're not ignorant, not stupid," 
I ventured to reply, with the accompaniment of 
feeling immediately afterwards that I had been 
both familiar and patronising. My only consolation 
was in the sense that she had begun it, had fairly 
dragged me into it. She had thrust forward her lim- 
itations. 

"Well, whatever I am I'm very different from my 
husband. If you like him you won't like me. You 
need n't say anything. Your Hking me is n't in the 
least necessary!" 

" Don't defy me ! " I could but honourably make 
answer. 

She looked as if she had n't heard me, which was 
the best thing she could do; and we sat some time 
without further speech. Mrs. Ambient had evidently 
the enviable English quality of being able to be mute 
without unrest. But at last she spoke — she asked 
me if there seemed many people in town. I gave her 
what satisfaction I could on this point, and we talked 
a little of London and of some of its characteristics 
at that time of the year. At the end of this I came 
back irrepressibly to Mark. 

" Does n't he like to be there now ? I suppose he 
does n't find the proper quiet for his work. I should 
think his things had been written for the most part 
in a very still place. They suggest a great stillness 
following on a kind of tumult. Don't you think so ?" 
I laboured on. "I suppose London's a tremendous 

i8 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

place to collect Impressions, but a refuge like this, in 
the country, must be better for working them up. 
Does he get many of his impressions in London, 
should you say ? " I proceeded from point to point in 
this malign enquiry simply because my hostess, who 
probably thought me an odious chattering person, 
gave me time ; for when I paused — I 've not repre- 
sented my pauses — she simply continued to let her 
eyes wander while her long fair fingers played with 
the medallion on her neck. When I stopped alto- 
gether, however, she was obliged to say something, 
and what she said was that she had n't the least idea 
where her husband got his impressions. This made 
me think her, for a moment, positively disagreeable; 
delicate and proper and rather aristocratically fine 
as she sat there. But I must either have lost that view 
a moment later or been goaded by it to further aggres- 
sion, for I remember asking her if our great man were 
in a good vein of work and when we might look for the 
appearance of the book on which he was engaged. 
I've evejy reason now to know that she found me 
insufferable. 

She gave a strange small laugh as she said : " I 'm 
afraid you think I know much more about my hus- 
band's work than I do. I have n't the least idea what 
he's doing," she then added in a slightly different, 
that is a more explanatory, tone and as if from a 
glimpse of the enormity of her confession. "I don't 
read what he writes." 

She did n't succeed, and would n't even had she 
tried much harder, in making this seem to me any- 
thing less than monstrous. I stared at her and I think 

19 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

I blushed. "Don't you admire his genius? Don't 
you admire ' Beltraffio ' ? 

She waited, and I wondered what she could possibly 
say. She did n't speak, I could see, the first words 
that rose to her lips ; she repeated what she had said 
a few minutes before. "Oh of course he's very 
clever ! " And with this she got up ; our two absentees 
had reappeared. 



II 



Mrs. Ambient left me and went to meet them; she 
stopped and had a few words with her husband that 
I did n't hear and that ended in her taking the child 
by the hand and returning with him to the house. 
Her husband joined me in a moment, looking, I 
thought, the least bit conscious and constrained, and 
said that if I would come in with him he would show 
me my room. In looking back upon these first mo- 
ments of my visit I find it important to avoid the 
error of appearing to have at all fully measured his 
situation from the first or made out the signs of things 
mastered only afterwards. This later knowledge 
throws a backward light and makes me forget that, 
at least on the occasion of my present reference — I 
mean that first afternoon — Mark Ambient struck 
me as only enviable. Allowing for this he must yet 
have failed of much expression as we walked back to 
the house, though I remember well the answer he 
made to a remark of mine on his small son. 

"That's an extraordinary little boy of yours. I've 
never seen such a child." 

"Why," he asked while we went, "do you call him 
extraordinary ? " 

"He's so beautiful, so fascinating, ^p's like some 
perfect littl f work nf arr." 

He turned quickly in the passage, grasping my arm. 
Oh don't call him that, or you'll — you'll — !" 

21 



(( 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

But in his hesitation he broke off suddenly, laughing 
at my surprise. Immediately afterwards, however, 
he added: "You'll make his little future very dif- 
ficult." 

I declared that I would n't for the world take any 
liberties with his little future — it seemed to me to 
hang by threads of such delicacy. I should only be 
highly interested in watching it. 

"You Americans are very keen," he commented 
on this. "You notice more things than we do." 

"Ah if you want visitors who are n't struck with 
you," I cried, "you should n't have asked me down 
here!" 

He showed me my room, a little bower of chintz, 
with open windows where the light was green, and 
before he left me said irrelevantly: "As for my small 
son, you know, -we shalL^tmbably kill him between 
us..beforejw e 've d one jwith^im ! " And he made this 
assertion as iF~Ke"feany believed it, without any 
appearance of jest, his fine near-sighted expressive 
eyes looking straight into mine. 

" Do you mean by spoiling him ? " 

"No, by fighting for him!" 

"You had better give him to me to keep for you," 
I said. "Let me remove the apple of discord!" 

It was my extravagance of course, but he had the 
air of being perfectly serious. "It would be quite 
the best thing we could do. I should be all ready to 
do it." 

"I 'm greatly obliged to you for your confidence." 

But he lingered with his hands in his pockets. I 
felt as if within a few moments I had, morally speak- 

22 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

ing, taken several steps nearer to him. He looked 
weary, just as he faced me then, looked preoccupied 
and as if there were something one might do for him. 
I was terribly conscious of the limits of my young 
ability, but I wondered what such a service might be, 
feeling at bottom nevertheless that the only thing I 
could do for him was to like him. I suppose he 
guessed this and was grateful for what was in my 
mind, since he went on presently: "I haven't the 
advantage of being an American, but I also notice 
a little, and I 've an idea that " — here he smiled and 
laid his hand on my shoulder — "even counting 
out your nationality you're not destitute of intel- 
ligence. I 've only known you half an hour, but — ! " 
For which again he pulled up. " You 're very young 
after all." 

"But you may treat me as if I could understand 
you ! " I said ; and before he left me to dress for din- 
ner he had virtually given me a promise that he 
would. 

When I went down into the drawing-room — I was 
very punctual — I found that neither my hostess nor 
my host had appeared. A lady rose from a sofa, 
however, and inclined her head as I rather surprisedly 
gazed at her. "I dare say you don't know me," she 
said with the modern laugh. "I'm Mark Ambient's 
sister." Whereupon I shook hands with her, saluting 
her very low. Her laugh was modern — by which 
I mean that it consisted of the vocal agitation serv- 
ing between people who me,et in drawing-rooms as 
t he solvent of social, disp grifjesj the medium of 
trarisitioiTrrbut her appearance was — what shall I 

23 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

call it ? — mediaeval. She was pale and angular, her 
long thin face was inhabited by sad dark eyes and 
her black hair intertwined with golden fillets and 
curious clasps. She wore a faded velvet robe which 
clung to her when she moved and was "cut," as to 
the neck and sleeves, like the garments of old Italians. 
She-Sugg£SteJLa_symboli c picture, som ething- akin 
even to_Durer' s_M elan£lioUa»- and vg as so-per&ct an 
image of a typej?hich_Ij, in myJgnoj:ancg,,_Si^ 
to be extinctj_that while she rose before m&_ J was 



almost as muclT startled as jflS ad-s geji a gho st. I 
afterwards concluded that Miss Ambient was n't 
incapable of deriving pleasure from this weird effect, 
and I now believe that reflexion concerned in her 
having sunk again to her seat with her long lean but 
not ungraceful arms locked together in an archaic 
manner on her knees and her mournful eyes address- 
ing me a message of intentness which foreshadowed 
what I was subsequently to suffer. She was a singular 
fatuous artificial creature, and I was never more than 
half to' penetrate her motives and mysteries. Of one 
thing I'm sure at least: that they were considerably 
less insuperable than her appearance announced. 
Miss Ambient was a restless romantic disappointed 
spinster, consumed with the love of Michael-Angel- 
esque attitudes and mystical robes; but I'm now 
convinced she had n't in her nature those depths of 
unutterable thought which, when you first knew her, 
seemed to look out from her eyes and to prompt her 
complicated gestures. Those features in especial had 
a misleading eloquence ; they lingered on you with a 
far-off dimness, an air of obstructed sympathy, which 

24 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

was certainly not always a key to the spirit of their 
owner; so that, of a truth, a young lady could scarce 
have been so dejected and disillusioned without hav- 
ing committed a crime for which she was consumed 
with remorse, or having parted with a hope that she 
could n't sanely have entertained. She had, I believe, 
the usual allowance of rather vain motives : she wished 
to be looked at, she wished to be married, she wished to 
be thought original. 

It costs me a pang to speak in this irreverent man- 
ner of one of Ambient's name, but I shall have still 
less gracious things to say before I've finished my 
anecdote, and moreover — I confess it — I owe the 
young lady a bit of a grudge. Putting aside the curi- 
ous cast of her face she had no natural aptitude for 
an artistic development, had little real intelligence. 
But her affectations rubbed off on her brother's 
renown, and as there were plenty of people who 
darkly disapproved of him they could easily point to 
his sister as a person formed by his influence. It was 
quite possible to regard her as a warning, and she had 
almost compromised him with the world at large. 
He was the original and she the inevitable imitation. 
I suppose him scarce aware of the impression she 
mainly produced, beymid Jhia5dng_a_general^ idea_that^ 
she made up very well as a Rossetti ; he was used to 
her and was sorry for her, wishing she would marry 
and observing how she did n't. Doubtless I take her 
too seriously, for she did me no harm, though I'm 
bound to allow that I can only half-account for her. 
She was n't so mystical as she looked, but was a 
strange indirect uncomfortable embarrassing woman. 

25 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

My story gives the reader at best so very small a knot 
to untie that I need n't hope to excite his curiosity 
by delaying to remark that Mrs. Ambient hated her 
sister-in-law. This I learned but later on, when other 
matters came to my knowledge. I mention it, how- 
ever, at once, for I shall perhaps not seem to count 
too much on having beguiled him if I say he must 
promptly have guessed it. Mrs. Ambient, a person 
of conscience, put the best face on her kinswoman, 
who spent a month with her twice a year; but it 
took no great insight to recognise the very different 
personal paste of the two ladies, and that the usual 
feminine hypocrisies would cost them on either side 
much more than the usual effort. Mrs. Ambient, 
smooth-haired, thin-lipped, perpetually fresh, must 
have regarded her crumpled and dishevelled visitor 
as an equivocal joke; she herself so the opposite of a 
Rossetti, she herself a Reynolds or a Lawrence, with 
no more far-fetched note in her composition than a 
cold ladylike candour and a well-starched muslin 
dress. 

It was in a garment and with an expression of this 
kind that she made her entrance after I had ex- 
changed a few words with Miss Ambient. Her hus- 
band presently followed her and, there being no other 
company, we went to dinner. The impressions I re- 
ceived at that repast are present to me still. The 
elements of oddity in the air hovered, as it were, with- 
out descending — to any immediate check of my de- 
light. This came mainly of course from Ambient's talk, 
the easiest and richest I had ever heard. I mayn't 
say to-day whether he laid himself out to dazzle a 

26 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

rather juvenile pilgrim from over the sea; but that 
matters little — it seemed so natural to him to shine. 
His s poken w jt or wisd om , or whatever , ha d thus a 
ch arm a lmo st- hey QB 4^,Ms wr i u gaLthat is H^thejiigh_ 
&U§h,.5 f his p ri nted prose_b e really, a s some people_ 
Aay^^inaintained, a fault . There was such a kindness 
in him, however, that I 've no doubt it gave him ideas 
for me, or about me, to see me sit as open-mouthed 
as I now figure myself. Not so the two ladies, who 
not only were very nearly dumb from beginning to 
end of the meal, but who had n't even the air of 
being struck with such an exhibition of fancy and 
taste. Mrs. Ambient, detached, and inscrutable, met 
neither my eye nor her husband's : she attended to her 
dinner, watched her servants, arranged the puckers in 
her dress, exchanged at wide intervals a remark with 
her sister-in-law and, while she slowly rubbed her 
lean white hands between the courses, looked out of 
the window at the first signs of evening -^ thg lon g. 
June^j^ y allowing us to dine without candles. Miss 
Ambient appeared to give little direct heed to any- 
thing said by her brother; but on the other hand she 
was much engaged in watching its effect upon me. 
Her "die-away" pupils continued to attach them- 
selves to my countenance, and it was only her air of 
belonging to another century that kept them from 
being importunate. She seemed to look at me across 
the ages, and the interval of time diminished for me 
the inconvenience. It was as if she knew in a general 
way that he must be talking very well, but she herself 
was so at home among such allusions that she had no 
need to pick them up and was at Hberty to see what 

27 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

would become of the exposure of a candid young 
American to a high aesthetic temperature. 

The temperature was aesthetic certainly, but it was 
less so than I could have desired, for I failed of any 
great success in making our friend abound about him- 
self. I tried to put him on the ground of his own 
genius, but he slipped through my fingers every time 
and shifted the saddle to one or other of his contem- 
poraries. He talked about Balzac and Browning, 
about what was being done in foreign countries, about 
his recent tour in the East and the extraordinary 
forms of life to be observed in that part of the world. 
I felt he had reasons for holding off from a direct 
profession of hffrai y f=^'^•hT a full consistency or sin- 
cerity, and therefore dealt instead with certain .^sfial 
JgpicSst^ treating them with extraordinary humour 
and with a due play of that power of ironic evocation 
in which his books abound. He had a deal to say 
about London as London appears to the observer who 
has the courage of some of his conclusions during 
the high-pressure time — from April to July — of 
its gregarious life. He flashed his faculty of playing 
with the caught image and liberating the wistful idea 
over the whole scheme of manners or conception of 
intercourse of his compatriots, among whom there 
were evidently not a few types for which he had little 
love. London in short was grotesque to him, and he 
made capital sport of it; his only allusion that I can 
remember to his own work was his saying that he 
meant some day to do an immense and general, a 
kind of epic, sc^aLsatije. Miss Ambient's perpetual 
gaze seemed to put to me : " Do you perceive how 

28 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

artistic, how very strange and interesting, ^ are? 
Frankly now is it possible to be more artistic, more 
strange and interesting, than this ? You surely won't 
deny that \5jfclre remarkable." I was irritated by her 
use of the plural pronoun, for she had no right to pair 
herself with her brother; and moreover of course I 
could n't see my way to — at all genially — include 
Mrs. Ambient. Yet there was no doubt they were, 
taken together, unprecedented enough, and, with all 
allowances, I had never been left, or condemned, to 
draw so many rich inferences. 

After the ladies had retired my host took me into 
his study to smoke, where I appealingly brought him 
round, or so tried, to some disclosure of fond ideals. 
I was bent on proving I was worthy to listen to him, 
on repaying him for what he had said to me before 
dinner, by showing him how perfectly I understood. 
He liked to talk ; he liked to defend his convictions and 
his honour (not that I attacked them) ; he liked a little 
perhaps — it was a pardonable weakness — to be- 
wilder the youthful mind even while wishing to win 
it over. My ingenuous sympathy received at any rate 
a shock from three or four of his professions — he 
made me occasionally gasp and stare. He could n't 
help forgetting, or rather could n't know, how little, 
in another and dryer clime, I had ever sat in the 
school in which he was master; and he promoted me 
as at a jump to a sense of its penetraha. My trepida- 
tions, however, were delightful; they were just what 
I had hoped for, and their only fault was that they 
passed away too quickly; since I found that for the 
main points I was essentially, I was quite constitution- 

29 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

ally, on Mark Ambient 's " side." This was the taken 
stand of the artist to whom every manifestation of 
human energy was a thrilHng spectacle and who felt 
for ever the desire to resolve his experience of life into 
a literary form. On that high head of the passion for 
form — theattempt at perfectiona h&X| UCst for whicfi ;;^ 

wgIEE^[JKf§p.»5ea»JiJbai^^ ' 

he saidjthe most interestiflg, ibfcJH0sfeJ»spiwnglh,i,ngs. 
He mixed with them a thousand illustrations from 
his own life, from other lives he had known, from 
history and fiction, and above all from the annals of 
the time that was dear to him beyond all periods, the 
Italian cinque-cento. It came to me thus that in his 
books he had uttered but half his thought, and that 
what he had kept back — from motives I deplored 
when I made them out later — was the finer, and 
braver part. It was his fate to make a great many 
still more "prepared" people than me not inconsid- 
erably wince; but there was no grain of bravado in 
his ripest things (I 've always maintained it, though 
often contradicted), and at bottom the poor fellow, 
disinterested to his finger-tips and regarding jgip er- 
£ectionj u)t on ly as an aesthetic but quite als fl^as a 
social cnftie, ha d an extreme HreaJofscandaL There 
are critics who regret that having gone so far he 
didn't go further; but I regret nothing — putting 
aside two or three of the motives I just mentioned 
— since he arrived at a noble rarity and I don't see 
how you can go beyond that. The hours I spent in 
his study — this first one and the few that followed it; 
they were not after all so numerous — seem to glow, 
as I look back on them, with a tone that is partly 

30 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

that of the brown old room, rich, under the shaded 
candle-light where we sat and smoked, with the 
dusky delicate bindings of valuable books; partly 
that of his voice, of which I still catch the echo, 
charged with the fancies and figures that came at 
his command. When we went back to the drawing- 
room we found Miss Ambient alone in possession 
and prompt to mention that her sister-in-law had a 
quarter of an hour before been called by the nurse 
to see the child, who appeared rather unwell — a lit- 
tle feverish. 

"Feverish! how in the world comes he to be fever- 
ish ?" Ambient asked. "He was perfectly right this 
afternoon." 

" Beatrice says you walked him about too much — 
you almost killed him." 

" Beatrice must be very happy — she has an op- 
portunity to triumph ! " said my friend with a bright 
bitterness which was all I could have wished it. 

"Surely not if the child 's ill," I ventured to remark 
by way of pleading for Mrs. Ambient. 

"My dear fellow, you are n't married — you don't 
know the nature of wives ! " my host returned with 
spirit. 

I tried to match it. "Possibly not; but I know the 
nature of mothers." 

"Beatrice is perfect as a mother," sighed Miss 
Ambient quite tremendously and with her fingers 
interlaced on her embroidered knees. 

"I shall go up and see my boy," her brother went 
on. "Do you suppose he's asleep ?" 

" Beatrice won't let you see him, dear " — as to 

31 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

which our young lady looked at me, though ad- 
dressing our companion. 

" Do you call that being perfect as a mother ? " 
Ambient asked. 

" Yes, from her point of view." 

" Damn her point of view ! " cried the author of 
"Beltraffio." And he left the room; after which we 
heard him ascend the stairs. 

I sat there for some ten minutes with Miss Ambient, 
and we naturally had some exchange of remarks, 
which began, I think, by my asking her what the 
point of view of her sister-in-law could be. 

"Oh it's so very odd. But we're so very odd alto- 
gether. Don't you find us awfully unlike others of our 
class ? — which indeed mostly, in England, is awful. 
We 've lived so much abroad. I adore ' abroad.' Have 
you people like us in America ? " 

" You 're not all aHke, you interesting three — or, 
counting Dolcino, four — surely, surely ; so that I don't 
think I understand your question. We 've no one like 
your brother — I may go so far as that." 

"You've probably more persons like his wife," 
Miss Ambient desolately smiled. 

"I can tell you that better when you've told me 
about her point of view." 

" Oh yes^r- oh yes. Well," said my entertainer, " she 
does n't like his ids*s. She does n't like them for-the 
child. She thinks them undesirable." 

Being quite fresh from the contemplation of some 
of Mark Ambient's arcana I was particularly in a 
position to appreciate this announcement. But the 
effect of it was to make me, after staring a moment, 

32 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

burst into laughter which I instantly checked when 
I remembered the indisposed child above and the 
possibility of parents nervously or fussily anxious. 

"What has that infant to do with ideas ?" I asked. 
" Surely he can't tell one from another. Has he read 
his father's novels ? " 

"He's very precocious and very sensitive, and his 
mother thinks she can't begin to guard him too early." 
Miss Ambient's head drooped a little to one side and 
her eyes fixed themselves on futurity. Then of a 
sudden came a strange alteration ; her face lighted to 
an effect more joyless than any gloom, to that indeed 
of a conscious insincere grimace, and she added: 
"When one has children what onewrites becomes a 

g4;fiaJuj^imsiSxZL^ 

"Children are terrible critics," I prosaically an- 
swered. "I'm really glad I haven't any." 

" Do you also write then ? And in the same style 
as my brother ? And do you like that style ? And do 
people appreciate it in America ? I don't write, but I 
think I feel." To these and various other enquiries 
and observations my young lady treated me till we 
heard her brother's step in the hall again and Mark 
Ambient reappeared. He was so flushed and grave 
that I supposed he had seen something symptomatic 
in the condition of his child. His sister apparently 
had another idea ; she gazed at him from afar — as 
if he had been a burning ship on the horizon — and 
simply murmured " Poor old Mark ! " 

"I hope you 're not anxious," I as promptly pro- 
nounced. 

"No, but I'm disappointed. She won't let me in. 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

She has locked the door, and I 'm afraid to make a 
noise." I dare say there might have been a touch of 
the ridiculous in such a confession, but I liked my 
new friend so much that it took nothing for me from 
his dignity. "She tells me — from behind the door 
— that she 'II let me know if he 's worse." 

"It's very good of her," said Miss Ambient with 
a hollow sound. 

I had exchanged a glance with Mark in which it 's 
possible he read that my pity for him was untinged 
with contempt, though I scarce know why he should 
have cared; and as his sister soon afterward got up 
and took her bedroom candlestick he proposed we 
should go back to his study. We sat there till after 
midnight; he put himself into his slippers and an old 
velvet jacket, he lighted an ancient pipe, but he talked 
considerably less than before. There were longish 
pauses in our communion, but they only made me 
feel we had advanced in intimacy. They helped me 
further to understand my friend's personal situation 
and to imagine it by no means the happiest possible. 
When his face was quiet it was vaguely troubled, 
showing, to my increase of interest — if that was all 
that was wanted ! — that for him too life was the same 
struggle it had been for so many another man of 
genius. At last I prepared to leave him, and then, to 
my ineffable joy, he gave me some of the sheets of his 
forthcoming book — which, though unfinished, he had 
indulged in the luxury, so dear to writers of delibera- 
tion, of having "set up," from chapter to chapter, 
as he advanced. These early pages, the premices, in 
the language of letters, of that new fruit of his imagin- 

34 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

ation, 1 should take to my room and look over at my 
leisure. I was in the act of leaving him when the door 
of the study noiselessly opened and Mrs. Ambient 
stood before us. She observed us a moment, her 
candle in her hand, and then said to her husband 
that as she supposed he had n't gone to bed she had 
come down to let him know Dolcino was more quiet 
and would probably be better in the morning. Mark 
Ambient made no reply; he simply slipped past her in 
the doorway, as if for fear she might seize him in his 
passage, and bounded upstairs to judge for him- 
self of his child's condition. She looked so frankly 
discomfited that I for a moment believed her about 
to give him chase. But she resigned herself with a 
sigh and her eyes turned, ruefully and without a ray, 
to the lamplit room where various books at which 
I had been looking were pulled out of their places on 
the shelves and the fumes of tobacco hung in mid- 
air. I bade her good-night and then, without inten- 
tion, by a kind of fatality, a perversity that had 
already made me address her overmuch on that ques- 
tion of her husband's powers, I alluded to the pre- 
cious proof-sheets with which Ambient had entrusted 
me and which I nursed there under my arm . " They 're 
theopeningchaptersof hisnewbook,"! said. "Fancy 
my satisfaction at being allowed to carry them to my 
room ! " 

She turned away, leaving me to take my candle- 
stick from the table in the hall; but before we sep- 
arated, thinking it apparently a good occasion to let 
me know once for all — since I was beginning, it 
would seem, to be quite "thick" with my host — that 

35 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

there was no fitness In my appealing to her for sym- 
pathy in such a case; before we separated, I say, she 
remarked to me with her quick fine well-bred in- 
veterate curtness : " I dare say you attribute to me 
ideas I have n't got. I don't take that sort of interest 
in my husband's proof-sheets. I consider his writings 
most objectionable ! " 



Ill 



I HAD an odd colloquy the next morning with Miss 
Ambient, whom I found strolling in the garden before 
breakfast. The whole place looked as fresh and trim, 
amid the twitter of the birds, as if, an hour before, 
the housemaids had been turned into it with their 
dust-pans and feather-brushes. I almost hesitated 
to light a cigarette and was doubly startled when, 
in the act of doing so, I suddenly saw the sister 
of my host, who had, at the best, something of 
the weirdness of an apparition, stand before me. She 
might have been posing for her photograph. Her 
sad-coloured robe arranged itself in serpentine folds 
at her feet; her hands locked themselves listlessly 
together in front; her chin rested on a cinque-cento 
ruff. The first thing I did after bidding her good- 
morning was to ask her for news of her little nephew 
— to express the hope she had heard he was better. 
She was able to gratify this trust — she spoke as if 
we might expect to see him during the day. We 
walked through the shrubberies together and she 
gave me further light on her brother's household, 
which offered me an opportunity to repeat to her what 
his w;ife had so startled and distressed me with the 
night before. Was it the sorry truth that she thought 
his productions objectionable ? 

"She does n't usually come out with that so soon ! " 
Miss Ambient returned in answer to my breathless- 
ness. 

37 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

"Poor lady," I pleaded, "she saw I'm a fanatic." 
"Yes, she won't Hke you for that. But you must n't 
mind, if the rest of us like you ! Beatrice thinks a 
work of art ought to have a 'purpose.' But she's a 
charming woman — don't you think her charming ? 
I find in her quite the grand air." 

"She's very beautiful," I produced with an effort; 
while I reflected that though it was apparently true 
that Mark Ambient was mismated it was also per- 
ceptible that his sister was perfidious. She assured 
me her brother and his wife had no other difference 
but this one — that she thought his writings immoral 
and his influence pernicious. It was a fixed idea; 
she was afraid of these things for the child. I an- 
swered that it was in all conscience enough, the 
trifle of a woman's regarding her husband's mind 
as a well of corruption, and she seemed much struck 
with the novelty of my remark. " But there has n't 
been any of the sort of trouble that there so often is 
among married people," she said. "I suppose you 
can judge for yourself that Beatrice is n't at all — 
well, whatever they call it when a woman kicks over! 
And poor Mark does n't make love to other people 
either. You might think he would, but I assure you 
he does n't. All the same of course, from her point of 
view, you know, she has a dread of my brother's in- 
fluence on the child — on the formation of his charac- 
ter, his * ideals,' poor little brat, his principles. It's 
as if it were a subtle poison or a contagion — some- 
^mgjhat woiflS'TnbTrfron his tender s&nsiMiitywheii^ 
his father kisses him or ho^jmrnTori hisTne^^^IESK^ 
could she-'jd .prevent .Mark from eveit ^o. -oniifih^ as 

38 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

, .t , n , U£h iBg _him. E very one knows it — visitors see it 
for themselves ; so there 's no harm in my telling you. 
Is n't it excessively odd ? It comes from Beatrice's 
being so religious and so tremendously moral — so a 
cheval on fifty thousand riguardi. And then of course 
we must n't forget," my companion added, a little 
unexpectedly, to this polyglot proposition, "that some 
ofMark'sideas are — well, really — rather impossible, 
don't you know ? " 

I reflected as we went into the house, where we 
found Ambient unfolding The Observer at the break- 
fast-table, that none of them were probably quite so 
"impossible, don't you know?" as his sister. Mrs. 
Ambient, a little "the worse," as was mentioned, for 
her ministrations, during the night to Dolcino, did n't 
appear at breakfast. Her husband described her how- 
ever as hoping to go to church. I afterwards learnt 
that she did go, but nothing naturally was less on 
the cards than that we should accompany her. It 
was while the church-bell droned near at hand that 
the author of " BeltrafEo " led me forth for the ramble 
he had spoken of in his note. I shall attempt here no 
record of where we went or of what we saw. We kept 
to the fields and copses and commons, and breathed 
the same sweet air as the nibbling donkeys and the 
browsing sheep, whose wooUiness seemed to me, in 
those early days of acquaintance with English objects, 
but part of the general texture of the small dense 
landscape, which looked as if the harvest were gath- 
ered by the shears and with all nature bleating and 
braying for the violence. Everything was full of ex- 
pression for Mark Ambient's visitor — from the big 

39 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

bandy-legged geese whose whiteness was a "note" 
amid all the tones of green as they wandered beside 
a neat little oval pool, the foreground of a thatched 
and whitewashed inn, with a grassy approach and a 
pictorial sign — from these humble wayside animals 
to the crests of high woods which let a gable or a 
pinnacle peep here and there and looked even at 
a distance like trees of good company, conscious of 
an individual profile. I admired the hedge-rows, I 
plucked the faint-hued heather, and I was for ever 
stopping to say how charming I thought the thread- 
like footpaths across the fields, which wandered in a 
diagonal of finer grain from one smooth stile to an- 
other. Mark Ambient was abundantly good-natured 
and was as much struck, dear man, with some of my 
observations asj^ was with the literary allusions of the 
landscape. We sat and^iSoked^lf stiles, broacHing 
'paradoxes in the decent English air; we took short 
cuts across a park or two where the bracken was deep 
and my companion nodded to the old woman at the 
gate ; we skirted rank coverts which rustled here and 
there as we passed, and we stretched ourselves at last 
on a heathery hillside where if the sun was n't too 
hot neither was the earth too cold, and where the 
country lay beneath us in a rich blue mist. Of course 
I had already told him what I thought of his new 
novel, having the previous night read every word of 
the opening chapters before I went to bed. 

"I'm not without hope of being able to make it 
decent enough," he said as I went back to the subject 
while we turned up our heels to the sky. "At least the 
people who dislike my stuff — and there are plenty 

40 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

of them, I believe — will dislike this thing (if it does 
turn out well) most." This was the first time I had 
heard him allude to the people who could n't read 
him — a class so generally conceived to sit heavy 
on the consciousness of the man of letters. A being 
organised for literature as Mark Ambient was must 
certainly have had the normal proportion of sensitive- 
ness, of irritability; the artistic ego, capable in some 
cases of such monstrous development, must have 
been in his composition sufficiently erect and active. 
I won't therefore go so far as to say that he never 
thought of his detractors or that he had any illusions 
with regard to the number of his admirers — he could 
never so far have deceived himself as to believe he 
was popular, but I at least then judged (and had 
occasion to be sure later on) that stupidity ruffled 
him visibly but little, that he had an air of thinking 
it quite natural he should leave many simple folk, 
tasting of him, as simple as ever he found them, and 
that he very seldom talked about the newspapers, 
which, by the way, were always even abnormally 
vulgar about him. Of course he may have thought 
them over — the newspapers — night and day; the 
only point I make is that he did n't show it; while 
at the same time he did n't strike one as a man 
actively on his guard. I may add that, touching 
his hope of making the work on which he was then 
engaged the best of his books, it was only partly car- 
ried out. That place belongs incontestably to "Bel- 
traffio," in spite of the beauty of certain parts of its 
successor. I quite believe, however, that he had at 
the moment of which I speak no sense of having 

41 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

declined; he was in love with his idea, which was 
indeed magnificent, and though for him, as I sup- 
pose for every sane artist, the act of execution had in 
it as much torment as joy, he saw his result grow 
like the crescent of the young moon and promise to 
fill the disk. " I want to be truer than I 've ever been," 
he said, settling himself on his back with his hands 
clasped behind his head; "I want to give the im- 
pression of life itself. No, you may say what you will, 
I've always arranged things too much, always 
smoothed them down and rounded them off and 
tucked them in — done everything to them that life 
does n't do. JVeJieen.a.slave.tatheold^perstiii^ 

" You a slave, my dear Mark Ambient ? You 've 
the freest imagination of our day ! " 

"All the more shame to me to have done some 
of the things I have! The reconciliation of the 
two women in 'Natalina,' for instance, which could 
never really have taken place. That sort of thing's 
ignoble — I blush when I think of it ! This new 
affair must be a golden vessel, filled with the purest 
distillation of the actual ; and oh how it worries me, 
the shaping of the vase, the hammering of the metal ! 
I have to hammer it so fine, so smooth; I don't do 
more than an inch or two a day. And all the while 
I have to be so careful not to let a drop of the liquor 
escape! When I see the kin d nf thinp;s J.ife her self, 
the brazen hussy, does, X : ^spair nf pypr ^atrhing hf r 
peculiar trick. She has_an impudence; , T.ife^! If one 
risked a fiftieth part of the efi^ects she risks ! It takes 
ever so long to believe it. You don't know yet, my 
dear youth. It is n't till one has been watching her 

42 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

some forty years that one finds out half of what she's 
up to ! Therefore one's earlier things must inevitably 
contain a mass of rot. And with what one sees, on one 
side, with its tongue in its cheek, defying one to be real 
enough, and on the other the bonnes gens rolling up 
their eyes at one's cynicism, the situation has ele- 
ments of the ludicrous which the poor reproducer 
himself is doubtless in a position to appreciate better 
than any one else. Of course one must n't worry 
about the bonnes gens," Mark Ambient went on while 
my thoughts reverted to his ladylike wife as inter- 
preted by his remarkable sister. 

"To sink your shaft deep and polish the plate 
through which people look into it — that 's what your 
work consists of," I remember ingeniously observing. 

"Ah polishing one's plate — that's the torment 
of execution ! " he exclaimed, jerking himself up and 
sitting forward. "The effort to arrive at a surface, 
if you think anything of that decent sort necessary — 
some people don't, happily for them ! My dear fellow, 
if you could see the surface I dream of as compared 
with the one with which I've to content myself. 
Life 's really too _s hort for ar t ,-;-■ one-^has-tL t, tijpe -t o 
make one's shell ideallyjiaxdw-4?*rm and bright, firm 
and brighTls~verywe!r to say — the devilish thing 
has a way sometimes of being bright, and even of being 
hard, as mere tough frozen pudding is hard, without 
being firm. When I rap it with my knuckles it does n't 
give the right sound. There are horrible sandy 
stretches where I've taken the wrong turn because 
I could n't for the life of me find the right. If you 
knew what a dunce I am sometimes! Such things 

43 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

figure to me now base pimples and ulcers on the brow 
of beauty ! " 

"They're very bad, very bad," I said as gravely as 
I could. 

"Very bad ? They're the hip;h^,py £ Ocial ofFenre I^ 
kjjjgE,; it ought — it absolutely ought; I'm quite 
serious — to be capital. If I knew I should be 
publicly thrashed else I'd manage to find the true 
word. The people who can't — some of them don't 
so much as know it when they see it — would shut 
their inkstands, and we should n't be deluged by this 
flood of rubbish ! " 

I shall not attempt to i;epeat everything that passed 
between us, nor to explain just how it was that, every 
moment I spent in his company, Mark Ambient re- 
vealed to me more and more the consistency of his 
creative spirit, the spirit in him that felt all life as 
plastic material. I could but envy him the force of 
that passion, and it was at any rate through the receipt 
of this impression that by the time we returned I had 
gained the sense of intimacy with him that I have 
noted. Before we got up for the homeward stretch 
he alluded to his wife's having once — or perhaps 
more than once — asked him whether he should like 
Dolcino to read "Beltraffio." He must have been 
unaware at the moment of all that this conveyed to 
me — as well doubtless of my extreme curiosity 
to hear what he had replied. He had said how much 
he hoped Dolcino would read all his works — when he 
was twenty; he should like him to know what his 
father had done. Before twenty it would be useless; 
he would n't understand them. 

44 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

"And meanwhile do you propose to hide them — 
to lock them up in a drawer?" Mrs. Ambient had 
proceeded. 

"Oh no — we must simply tell him they're not in- 
tended for small boys. If you bring him up properly 
after that he won't touch them." 

To this Mrs. Ambient had made answer that it 
might be very awkward when he was about fifteen, 
say; and I asked her husband if it were his opinion in 
general then that young people should n't read novels. 

"Good ones — certainly not!" said my com- 
panion. I suppose I had had other views, for I re- 
member saying that for myself I was n't sure it was 
bad for them if the novels were "good" to the right 
intensity of goodness. " Bad for them, I don't say so 
much!" my companion returned. " B]^^jjgcy:„hadj 
I 'm afrg.id|^4br_.the: poo^ %ar old _no3te.l„if self." That" 
oblique accidental allusion to his wife's attitude was 
followed by a greater breadth of reference as we walked 
home. "The difference between us is simply the op- 
position between two distinct ways of looking at the 
world, which have never succeeded in getting on to- 
gether, or in making any kind of common household, 
since the beginning of time. They've borne all sorts 
of names, and my wife would tell you it's the differ- 
ence between Christian and Pagan. I may be a pagan, 
but I don't like the name; it sounds sectarian. She 
thinks me at any rate no better than an ancient 
Greek. It 's the difference between making the most 
of life and making the least, so that you '11 get an- 
other better one in some other time and place. Will 
it be a sin to make the most of that one too, I won- 

45 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

der; and shall we have to be bribed off in the future 
state as well as in the present ? Perhaps I care too 
much for beauty — I don't know, I doubt if a poor 
devil can; I delight in it, I adore it, I think of it con- 
tinually, I try to produce it, to reproduce it. My wife 
holds that we should n't cultivate or enjoy it without 
extraordinary precautions and reserves. She 's always 
afraid of it, always on her guard. I don't know what 
it can ever have done to her, what grudge it owes her 
or what resentment rides. And she's so pretty too 
herself! Don't you think she's lovely? She was at 
any rate when we married. At that time I was n't 
aware of that difference I speak of — I thought it all 
came to the same thing : in the end, as they say. Well, 
perhaps it will in the end. I don't know what the end 
will be. Moreover -t-care-for- seeing things as jhey are ; 
that 's_the jway I try to_showjthem-in-any:.pEol€ssed 
picture. But you must n't talk to Mrs. Ambient 
about things as they are. She has a mortal dread of 
things as they are." 

"She's afraid of them for Dolcino," I said: sur- 
prised a moment afterwards at being in a position — 
thanks to Miss Ambient — to be so explanatory; and 
surprised even now that Mark should n't have shown 
visibly that he wondered what the deuce I knew 
about it. But he did n't; he simply declared with a 
tenderness that touched me: "Ah nothing shall ever 
hurt him!" 

He told me more about his wife before we arrived 
at the gate of home, and if he be judged to have 
aired overmuch his grievance I'm afraid I must 
admit that he had some of the foibles as well as the 

46 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

gifts of the artistic temperament; adding, however, 
instantly that hitherto, to the best of my belief, he 
had rarely let this particular cat out of the bag. 
"She thinks me immoral — that's the long and short 
of it," he said as we paused outside a moment and his 
hand rested on one of the bars of his gate; while 
nis conscious expressive perceptive eyes — the eyes 
of a foreigner, I had begun to account them, much 
more than of the usual Englishman — viewing me 
now evidently as quite a familiar friend, took part in 
the declaration. "It's very strange when one think§ 
it all over, and there 's a grand comicality in it that 
I should like to bring out. She 's a very nice woman, 
extraordinarily well-behaved, upright and clever and 
with a tremendous lot of good sense about a good 
many matters. Yet her conception of a novel — 
she has explained it to me once or twice, and she 
does n't do it badly as exposition — is a thing so fals'S 
that it makes me blush. It's a thing so hollow, so 
dishonest, so lyingjJnjEliSuli£eJ&^^ 
-Duiided, so dodged and disfigured,^ that.at jwakes^my^ 
ears burn. It's two different ways of looking at the 
whole affair," he repeated, pushing open the gate. 
"And they're irreconcileable ! " he added with a sigh. 
We went forward to the house, but on the walk, half- 
way to the door, he stopped and said to me : " If you 're 
going into this kind of thing there 's a fact you should 
know beforehand ; it may save you some disappoint- 
ment. There's a hatred of art, there's a hatred of 
literature — I mean of the genuine kinds. Oh the 
shams — those they'll swallow by the bucket!" I 
looked up at the charming house, with its genial colour 

47 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

and crookedness, and I answered with a smile that 
those evil passions might exist, but that I should never 
have expected to find them there. "Ah it does n't 
matter after all," he a bit nervously laughed ; which I 
was glad to hear, for I was reproaching myself with 
having worked him up. 

If I had it soon passed off, for at luncheon he was 
delightful; strangely delightful considering that the 
difference between himself and his wife was, as he had 
said, irreconcileable. He had the art, by his manner, 
by his smile, by his iiatural amenity, orTeducing the 
importance <^ ^lnlEeI commej^^Re%aas-oLlife ; and 
Mrs. Ambient, I must add, lent herself to this trans- 
action with a very good grace. I watched her at 
table for further illustrations of that fixed idea of 
which Miss Ambient had spoken to me; for in the 
light of the united revelations of her sister-in-law and 
her husband she had come to seem to me almost a 
sinister personage. Yet the signs of a sombre fan- 
aticism- were not more immediately striking in her 
than before ; it was only after a while that her air of 
incorruptible conformity, her tapering monosyllabic 
correctness, began to affect me as in themselves 
a cold thin flame. Certainly, at first, she resembled 
a woman with as few passions as possible; but if she 
had a passion at all it would indeed be that of Philis- 
tinism. She might have been (for there are guardian- 
spirits, I suppose, of all great principles) the very 
angel of the pink of propriety — putting the pink 
for a principle, though I'd rather put some dismal 
cold blue. Mirk Ambient, apparently, .ten years-Jje- 
fore, had simply and quite, inevitably^ takea. her for 

48 " "■- 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

an angel, without^ jjsjyng„iiimsei£^^ He had 

■^eSTngKt in calling my attention to her beauty. In 
looking for some explanation of his original surrender 
to her I saw more than before that she was, physically 
speaking, a^onderfully cultiv ated human pl ant — 
that he might welinKayiTowed her a brief poetlclfi- 
spiration. It was impossible to be more propped and 
pencilled, more delicately tinted and petalled. 

If I had had it in my heart to think my host a little 
of a hypocrite for appearing to forget at table every- 
thing he had said to me in our walk, I should instantly 
have cancelled such a judgement on reflecting that 
the good news his wife was able to give him about 
their little boy was ground enough for any optimistic 
reaction. It may have come partly too from a certain 
compunction at having breathed to me at all harshly 
on the cool fair lady who sat there — a desire to prove 
himself not after all so mismated. Dolcino continued 
to be much better, and it had been promised him he 
should come downstairs after his dinner. As soon as 
we had risen from our own meal Mark slipped away, 
evidently for the purpose of going to his child; and 
no sooner had I observed this than I became aware 
his wife had simultaneously vanished. It happened 
that Miss Ambient and I, both at the same moment, 
saw the tail of her dress whisk out of a doorway; 
an incident that led the young lady to smile at me 
as if I now knew all the secrets of the Ambients. I 
passed with her into the garden and we sat down on a 
dear old bench that rested against the west wall of 
the house. It was a perfect spot for the middle period 
of a Sunday in June, and its felicity seemed to come 

49 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

partly from an antique sun-dial which, rising in front 
of us and forming the centre of a small intricate par- 
terre, measured the moments ever so slowly and made 
them safe for leisure and talk. The garden bloomed 
in the suffused afternoon, the tall beeches stood still 
for an example, and, behind and above us, a rose-tree 
of many seasons, clinging to the faded grain of the 
brick, expressed the whole character of the scene in 
a familiar exquisite smell. It struck me as a place 
to offer genius every favour and sanction — not to 
bristle with challenges and checks. Miss Ambient 
asked me if I had enjoyed my walk with her brother 
and whether we had talked of many things. 

"Well, of most things," I freely allowed, though I 
remembered we had n't talked of Miss Ambient. 

"And don't you think some of his theories are very 
peculiar .? " 

"Oh I guess I agree with them all." I was very 
particular, for Miss Ambient's entertainment, to 
guess. 

"Do you think art's everything.?" she put tome 
in a moment. 

" In art, of course I do ! " 

"And do you think beauty's everything?" 

"Everything's a big word, which I think we should 
use as little as possible. But how can we not want 
beauty ? " 

"Ah there you are!" she sighed, though I didn't 
quite know what she meant by it. "Of course it's 
difficult for a woman to judge how far to go," she 
went on. " I adore everything that gives a charm to 
life. I 'm intensely sensitive to form. But sometimes 

50 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

I draw back — don't you see what I mean ? — I don't 
quite see where I shall be landed. I only want to be 
quiet, after all," Miss Ambient continued as if she 
had long been bafHed of this modest desire. "And 
one must be good, at any rate, must not one .? " she 
pursued with a dubious quaver — an intimation 
apparently that what I might say one way or the 
other would settle it for her. It was difficult for me 
to be very original in reply, and I 'm afraid I repaid 
her confidence with an unblushing platitude. I re- 
member moreover attaching to it an enquiry, equally 
destitute of freshness and still more wanting perhaps 
in tact, as to whether she did n't mean to go to church, 
since that was an obvious way of being good. She 
made answer that she had performed this duty in 
the morning, and that for her, of Sunday afternoons, 
supreme virtue consisted in answering the week's let- 
ters. Then suddenly and without transition she 
brought out: "It's quite a mistake about Dolcino's 
being better. I 've seen him and he 's not at all right." 

I wondered, and somehow I think I scarcely be- 
lieved. "Surely his mother would know, wouldn't 
she?" 

She appeared for a moment to be counting the 
leaves on one of the great beeches. "As regards most 
matters one can easily say what, in a given situation, 
my sister-in-law will, or would, do. But in the present 
case there are strange elements at work." 

" Strange elements ? Do you mean in the consti- 
tution of the child ? " 

"No, I mean in my sister-in-law's feelings." 

"Elements of affection of course; elements of anx- 

51 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

iety," I concurred. "But why do you call them 
strange ? " 

She repeated my words. "Elements of affection, 
elements of anxiety. She's very anxious." 

Miss Ambient put me indescribably ill at ease; she 
almost scared me, and I wished she would go and 
write her letters. "His father will have seen him 
now," I said, "and if he's not satisfied he will send 
for the doctor." 

"The doctor ought to have been here this morning," 
she promptly returned. "He lives only two miles 
away." 

I reflected that all this was very possibly but a part 
of the general tragedy of Miss Ambient's view of 
things; yet I asked her why she had n't urged that 
view on her sister-in-law. She answered me with a 
smile of extraordinary significance and observed that 
I must have very little idea of her " peculiar " rela- 
tions with Beatrice; but I must do her the justice that 
she re-enforced this a little by the plea that any dis- 
tinguishable alarm of Mark's was ground enough for 
a difference of his wife's. He was always nervous 
about the child, and as they were predestined by 
nature to take opposite views, the only thing for the 
mother was to cultivate a false optimism. In Mark's 
absence and that of his betrayed fear she would have 
been less easy. I remembered what he had said to 
me about their dealings with their son — that be- 
tween them they 'd probably put an end to him ; but 
I did n't repeat this to Miss Ambient : the less so that 
just then her brother emerged from the house, carry- 
ing the boy in his arms. Close behind him moved his 

52 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

wife, grave and pale; the little sick face was turned 
over Ambient's shoulder and toward the mother. We 
rose to receive the group, and as they came near us 
Dolcino twisted himself about. His enchanting eyes 
showed me a smile of recognition, in which, for the 
moment, I should have taken a due degree of com- 
fort. Miss Ambient, however, received another im- 
pression, and 1 make haste to say that her quick 
sensibihty, which visibly went out to the child, argues 
that in spite of her affectations she might have been 
of some human use. "It won't do at all — it won't 
do at all," she said to me under her breath. "I shall 
speak to Mark about the Doctor." 
""Sfef small nephevjiw as rather white, but the main 
liffjerenc&-l-6aw~in him was t hat JSe^ as even - more 
3eautifuLthaD-the- iiay before . He had been dressed 
in his festal garments — a velvet suit and a crimson 
sash — and he looked Hke a little invalid prince too 
young to know condescension and smiling familiarly 
on his subjects. 

"Put him down, Mark, he's not a bit at his 
ease," Mrs. Ambient said. 

"Should you like to stand on your feet, my boy ?" 
his father asked. 

He made a motion that quickly responded. "Oh 
yes; I'm remarkably well." 

Mark placed him on the ground; he had shining 
pointed shoes with enormous bows. "Are you happy 
now, Mr. Ambient ? " 

"Oh yes, I'm particularly happy," Dolcino re- 
plied. But the words were scarce out of his mouth 
when his mother caught him up and, in a moment, 

53 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

holding him on her knees, took her place on the bench 
where Miss Ambient and I had been sitting. This 
young lady said something to her brother, in conse- 
quence of which the two wandered away into the 
garden together. 



IV 

I REMAINED with Mrs. Ambient, but as a servant 
had brought out a couple of chairs I was n't obliged 
to seat myself beside her. Our conversation failed 
of ease, and I, for my part, felt there would be a 
shade of hypocrisy in my now trying to make myself 
agreeable to the partner of my friend's existence. I 
didn't disUke her — I rather admired her; but I was 
ayvare that I differed from her inexpressibly. Then 
I /suspected, what I afterwards definitely knew and 
have already intimated, that the poor lady felt small 
taste for her husband's so undisguised disciple; and 
this of course was not encouraging. She thought me 
an obtrusive and designing, even perhaps a depraved, 
young man whom a perverse Providence h ad dropped 
upon their quiet lawn to flatter "his vrorst tendencies. 
She did me the honour to say to Miss Ambient, who 
repeated the speech, that she did n't know when she 
had seen their companion take such a fancy to a 
visitor; and she measured apparently my evil influ- 
ence by Mark's appreciation of my society. I had a 
consciousness, not oppressive but quite sufiicient, of 
all this ; though I must say that if it chilled my flow 
of small-talk it yet did n't prevent my thinking the 
beautiful mother and beautiful child, interlaced there 
against their background of roses, jijiatMe,.suchjis 
I doubt less should n't soon see._ j[gain. I was free, 
I supposed, to go into the house and write letters, to 

55 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO j 

sit in the drawing-room, to repair to my own apart- 
ment and take a nap ; but the only use I made of my 
freedom was to linger still in my chair and say to my- 
self thatjhe light hanxL-of^SicJosluia might have 
painted jj lark Amb ieBti&wife ands-son-, I found my- 
self looking perpetually at the latter small mortal, who 
looked constantly back at me, and that was enough 
to detain me. With these vaguely-amused eyes he 
smiled, and I felt it an absolute impossibility to aban- 
don a child with such an expression. His attention 
never strayed; it attached itself to my face as if among 
all the small incipient things of his nature throbbed a 
desire to say something to me. If I could have taken 
him on my own knee he perhaps would have man- 
aged to say it; but it would have been a critical 
matter to ask his mother to give him up, and it has 
remained a constant regret for me that on that strange 
Sunday afternoon I did n't even for a moment hold 
Dolcino in my arms. He had said he felt remarkably 
well and was especially happy; but though peace may 
have been with him as he pillowed his charming head 
on his mother's breast, dropping his little crimson silk 
legs from her lap, I somehow did n't think security 
was. He made no attempt to walk about ; he was con- 
tent to swing his legs softly and strike one as languid 
and angelic. 

Mark returned to us with his sister; and Miss 
Ambient, repeating her mention of the claims of her 
correspondence, passed into the house. Mark came 
and stood in front of his wife, looking down at the 
child, who immediately took hold of his hand and 
kept it while he stayed. " I think Mackintosh ought 

56 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

to see him," he said; "I think I'll walk over and 
fetch him." 

"That's Gwendolen's idea, I suppose," Mrs. Am- 
bient replied very sweetly. 

"It's not such an out-of-the-way idea when one's 
child 's ill," he returned. 

" I 'm not ill, papa ; I 'm much better now," sounded 
in the boy's silver pipe. 

"Is that the truth, or are you only saying it to be 
agreeable ? You 've a great idea of being agreeable, 
you know." 

The child seemed to meditate on this distinction, 
this imputation, for a moment; then his exaggerated 
eyes, which had wandered, caught my own as I 
watched him. "Do you think me agreeable?" he 
enquired with the candour of his age and with a look 
that made his father turn round to me laughing and 
ask, without saying it, " Is n't he adorable ? " 

"Then why don't you hop about, if you feel so 
lusty ? " Ambient went on while his son swung his 
hand. 

"Because mamma's holding me close!" 

"Oh yes; I know how mamma holds you when I 
come near ! " cried Mark with a grimace at his wife. 

She turned her charming eyes up to him without 
deprecation or concession. "You can go for Mack- 
intosh if you like. I think myself it would be better. 
You ought to drive." 

"She says that to get me away," he put to me 
with a gaiety that I thought a little false ; after which 
he started for the Doctor's. 

I remained there with Mrs. Ambient, though even 

57 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

our exchange of twaddle had run very thin. The 
boy's little fixed white face seemed, as before, to 
plead with me to stay, and after a while it produced 
still another effect, a very curious one, which I shall 
find 4t difficult to express. Of course I expose my- 
self to the charge of an attempt to justify by a strained 
logic after the fact a step which may have been 
on my part but the fruit of a native want of discretion ; 
and indeed the traceable consequences of that per- 
versity were too lamentable to leave me any desire 
to trifle with the question. All I can say is that I acted 
in perfect good faith and that Dolcino's friendly little 
gaze gradually kindled the spark of my inspiration. 
What helped it to glow were the other influences — 
the silent suggestive garden-nook, the perfect oppor- 
tunity (if it was not an opportunity for that it was 
an opportunity for nothing) and the plea I speak of, 
which issued from the child's eyes and seemed to make 
him say: "The mother who bore me and who presses 
me here to her bosom — sympathetic little organism 
that I am — has really the kind of sensibility she 
has been represented to you as lacking, if you only 
look for it patiently and respectfully. How is it con- 
ceivable she should n't have it ? .How is it possible 
that / should have so much of it — for I 'm, quite full 
of it, dear strange gentleman — if it were n't also in 
some degree in her ? I 'm my great father's child, but 
I'm also my beautiful mother's, and I'm sorry for 
the difference between them ! " So it shaped itself 
before me, the vision of reconciling Mrs. Ambient 
with her husband, of putting an end to their ugly 
diflFerence. The project was absurd of course, for had 

58 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

I not had his word for it — spoken with all the bitter- 
ness of experience — that the gulf dividing them 
was well-nigh bottomless? Nevertheless, a quarter 
of an hour after Mark had left us, I observed to my 
hostess that I could n't get over what she had told me 
the night before about her thinking her husband's 
compositions "objectionable." I had been so very 
sorry to hear it, had thought of it constantly and 
wondered whether it might n't be possible to make 
her change her mind. She gave me a great cold stare, 
meant apparently as an admonition to me to mind my 
business. I wish I had taken this mute counsel, but 
I did n't take it. I went on to remark that it seemed 
an immense pity so much that was interesting should 
be lost on her. 

"Nothing's lost upon me," she said in a tone that 
did n't make the contradiction less. "I know they're 
very interesting." 

"Don't you like papa's books?" Dolcino asked, 
addressing his mother but still looking at me. Then 
he added to me : "Won'tyou read them to me, Ameri- 
can gentleman ? " 

"I'd rather tell you some stories of my own," 
I said. "I know some that are awfully good." 
"When will you tell them ? To-morrow?" 
"To-morrow with pleasure, if that suits you." 
His mother took this in silence. Her husband, 
during our walk, had asked me to remain another 
day; my promise to her son was an implication that 
I had consented, and it was n't possible the news 
could please her. This ought doubtless to have made 
me more careful as to what I said next, but all I can 

59 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

plead is that it did n't. I soon mentioned that just 
after leaving her the evening before, and after hearing 
her apply to her husband's writings the epithet 
already quoted, I had on going up to my room sat 
down to the perusal of those sheets of his new book 
that he had been so good as to lend me. I had sat 
entranced till nearly three in the morning — I had 
read them twice over. "You say you have n't looked 
at them. I think it's such a pity you shouldn't. 
Do let me beg you to take them up. They 're so very 
remarkable. I'm sure they'll convert you. They 
place him in — really — such a dazzling light. All 
that 's best in him is there. I 've no doubt it 's a great 
liberty, my saying all this; but pardon me, and do 
read them ! " 

" Do read them, mamma ! " the boy again sweetly 
shrilled. "Do read them!" 

She bent her head and closed his lips with a kiss. 
"Of course I know he has worked immensely over 
them," she said; after which she made no remark, 
but attached her eyes thoughtfully to the ground. 
The tone of these last words was such as to leave 
me no spirit for further pressure, and after hinting at 
a fear that her husband might n't have caught the 
Doctor I got up and took a turn about the grounds. 
When I came back ten minutes later she was still in 
her place watching her boy, who had fallen asleep in 
her lap. As I drew near she put her finger to her lips 
and a short time afterwards rose, holding him; it 
being now best, she said, that she should take him 
upstairs. I offered to carry him and opened my 
arms for the purpose; but she thanked me and turned 

60 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

away with the child still in herembrace, his head on 
her shoulder. " I 'm very strong," was her last word 
as she passed into the house, her slim flexible figure 
bent backward with the filial weight. So I never 
laid a longing hand on Dolcino. 

I betook myself to Ambient's study, delighted to 
have a quiet hour to look over his books by myself. 
The windows were open to the garden; the sunny 
stillness, the mild light of the English summer, filled 
the room without quite chasing away the rich dusky 
tone that was a part of its charm and that abode 
in the serried shelves where old morocco exhaled the 
fragrance of curious learning, as well as in the brighter 
intervals where prints and medals and miniatures 
were suspended on a surface of faded stuff. The 
place had both colour and quiet; I thought it a per- 
fect room for work and went so far as to say to myself 
that, if it were mine to sit and scribble in, there was 
no knowing but I might learn to write as well as 
the author of "Beltraffio." This distinguished man 
still did n't reappear, and I rummaged freely among 
his treasures. At last I took down a book that de- 
tained me a while and seated myself in a fine old 
leather chair by the window to turn it over. I had 
been occupied in this way for half an hour — a good 
part of the afternoon had waned — when I became 
conscious of another presence in the room and, look- 
ing up from my quarto, saw that Mrs. Ambient, hav- 
ing pushed open the door quite again in the same 
noiseless way marking or disguising her entrance the 
night before, had advanced across the threshold. On 
seeing me she stopped ; she had not, I think, expected 

6i 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

to find me. But her hesitation was only of a moment; 
she came straight to her husband's writing-table as 
if she were looking for something. I got up and asked 
her if I could help her. She glanced about an instant 
and then put her hand upon a roll of papers which 
I recognised, as I had placed it on that spot at the 
early hour of my descent from my room. 

"Is this the new book ?" she asked, holding it up. 

"The very sheets," I smiled; "with precious an- 
notations." 

" I mean to take your advice " — and she tucked 
the little bundle under her arm. I congratulated her 
cordially and ventured to make of my triumph, as I 
presumed to call it, a subject of pleasantry. But she 
was perfectly grave and turned away from me, as she 
had presented herself, without relaxing her rigour; 
after which I settled down to my quarto again with 
the reflexion that Mrs. Ambient was truly an eccen- 
tric. My triumph too suddenly seemed to me rather 
vain. A woman who could n't unbend at a moment 
exquisitely indicated would never understand Mark 
Ambient. He came back to us at last in person, having 
brought the Doctor with him. "He was away from 
home," Mark said, "and I went after him to where 
he was supposed to be. He had left the place, and I 
followed him to two or three others, which accounts 
for my delay." He was now with Mrs. Ambient, 
looking at the child, and was to see Mark again before 
leaving the house. My host noticed at the end of two 
minutes that the proof-sheets of his new book had 
been removed from the table; and when I told him, 
in reply to his question as to what I knew about them, 

62 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

that Mrs. Ambient had carried them off to read he 
turned almost pale with surprise. "What has sud- 
denly made her so curious.?" he cried; and I was 
obliged to tell him that I was at the bottom of the 
mystery. I had had it on my conscience to assure 
her that she really ought to know of what her hus- 
band was capable. "Of what I'm capable? Elle 
ne s'en doute que trop ! " said Ambient with a laugh ; 
but he took my meddling very good-naturedly and 
contented himself with adding that he was really 
much afraid she would burn up the sheets, his emend- 
ations and all, of which latter he had no duplicate. 
The Doctor paid a long visit in the nursery, and before 
he came down I retired to my own quarters, where I 
remained till dinner-time. On entering the drawing- 
room at this hour I found Miss Ambient in posses- 
sion, as she had been the evening before. 

"I was right about Dolcino," she said, as soon as 
she saw me, with an air of triumph that struck me as 
the climax of perversity. "He's really very ill." 

"Very ill! Why when I last saw him, at four 
o'clock, he was in fairly good form." 

"There has been a change for the worse, very 
sudden and rapid, and when the Doctor got here he 
found diphtheritic symptoms. He ought to have been 
called, as I knew, in the morning, and the child 
ought n't to have been brought into the garden." 

"My dear lady, he was very happy there," I pro- 
tested with horror. 

"He would be very happy anywhere. I've no 
doubt he 's very happy now, with his poor little temp- 
erature — !" She dropped her voice as her brother 

63 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

came in, and Mark let us know that as a matter of 
course Mrs. Ambient would n't appear. It was true 
the boy had developed diphtheritic symptoms, but he 
was quiet for the present and his mother earnestly 
watching him. She was a perfect nurse, Mark said, 
and Mackintosh would come back at ten. Our dinner 
was n't very gay — with my host worried and absent; 
and his sister annoyed me by her constant tacit as- 
sumption, conveyed in the very way she nibbled her 
bread and sipped her wine, of having "told me so." 
I had had no disposition to deny anything she might 
have told me, and I could n't see that her satisfaction 
in being justified by the event relieved her little 
nephew's condition. The truth is that, as the sequel 
was to prove, Miss Ambient had some of the qualities 
of the sibyl and had therefore perhaps a right to the 
sibylline contortions. Her brother was so preoccupied 
that I felt my presence an indiscretion and was sorry 
I had promised to remain over the morrow. I put 
it to Mark that clearly I had best leave them in the 
morning ; to which he replied that, on the contrary, if 
he was to pass the next days in the fidgets my com- 
pany would distract his attention. The fidgets had 
already begun for him, poor fellow; and as we sat in 
his study with our cigars after dinner he wandered 
to the door whenever he heard the sound of the Doc- 
tor's wheels. Miss Ambient, who shared this apart- 
ment with us, gave me at such moments significant 
glances ; she had before rejoining us gone upstairs to 
ask about the child. His mother and his nurse gave 
a fair report, but Miss Ambient found his fever high 
and his symptoms very grave. The Doctor came at ten 

64 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

o'clock, and I went to bed after hearing from Mark 
that he saw no present cause for alarm. He had made 
every provision for the night and was to return early 
in the morning. 

I quitted my room as eight struck the next day 
and when I came downstairs saw, through the open 
door of the house, Mrs. Ambient standing at the front 
gate of the grounds in colloquy with Mackintosh. She 
wore a wMt; g.,-dcessJng-gown . but her shining hair 
was carefully tucked away in its net, and in the 
morning freshness, after a night of watching, she 
looked as much " the type of the lady " as her sister- 
in-law had described her. Her appearance, I sup- 
pose, ought to have reassured me; but I was still 
nervous and uneasy, so that I shrank from meeting 
her with the necessary challenge. None the less, 
however, was I impatient to learn how the new day 
found him; and as Mrs. Ambient hadn't seen me 
I passed into the grounds by a roundabout way and, 
stopping at a further gate, hailed the Doctor just as 
he was driving off. Mrs. Ambient had returned to 
the house before he got into his cart. 

" Pardon me, but as a friend of the family I should 
like very much to hear about the little boy." 

The stout sharp circumspect man looked at me 
from head to foot and then said : " I 'm sorry to say 
I have n't seen him." 

" Have n't seen him ? " 

"Mrs. Ambient came down to meet me as I 
alighted, and told me he was sleeping so soundly, 
after a restless night, that she did n't wish him dis- 
turbed. I assured her I would n't disturb him, but 

65 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

she said he was quite safe now and she could look 
after him herself." 
"Thank you very much. Are you coming back .?" 
"No sir; I'll be hanged if I come back!" cried 
the honest practitioner in high resentment. And the 
horse started as he settled beside his man. 

I wandered back into the garden, and five minutes 
later Miss Ambient came forth from the house to 
greet me. She explained that breakfast would n't be 
served for some time and that she desired a moment 
herself with the Doctor, I let her know that the 
good vexed man had come and departed, and I re- 
peated to her what he had told me about his dis- 
missal. This made Miss Ambient very serious, very 
serious indeed, and she sank into a bench, with 
dilated eyes, hugging her elbows with crossed arms. 
She indulged in many strange signs, she confessed 
herself immensely distressed, and she finally told me 
what her own last news of her nephew had been. 
She had sat up very late — after me, after Mark — 
and before going to bed had knocked at the door of 
the child's room, opened to her by the nurse. This 
good woman had admitted her and she had found 
him quiet, but flushed and "unnatural," with his 
mother sitting by his bed. "She held his hand in one 
of hers," said Miss Ambient, " and in the other - ' 
what do you think ? — the proof-sheets of Mark's 
new book! She was reading them there intently: 
did you ever hear of anything so extraordinary? 
Such a very odd time to be reading an author whom 
she never could abide ! " In her agitation Miss Am- 
bient was guilty of this vulgarism of speech, and I 

66 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

was so impressed by her narrative that only in recall- 
ing her words later did I notice the lapse. Mrs. 
Ambient had looked up from her reading with her 
finger on her lips — I recognised the gesture she had 
addressed me in the afternoon — and, though the 
nurse was about to go to rest, had not encouraged her 
sister-in-law to relieve her of any part of her vigil. 
But certainly at that time the boy's state was far from 
reassuring — his poor little breathing so painful ; 
and what change could have taken place in him in 
those few hours that would justify Beatrice in denying 
Mackintosh access ? This was the moral of Miss 
Ambient's anecdote, the moral for herself at least. The 
moral for me, rather, was that it was a. very singular 
time for Mrs. Ambient to be going into a novelist she 
had never appreciated and who had simply happened 
to be recommended to her by a young American she 
disliked. I thought of her sitting there in the sick- 
chamber in the still hours of the night and after the 
nurse had left her, turning and turning those pages of 
genius and wrestling with their magical influence. 

I must be sparing of the minor facts and the later 
emotions of this sojourn — it lasted but a few hours 
longer — and devote but three words to my subse- 
quent relations with Ambient. They lasted five 
years — till his death — and were full of interest, of 
satisfaction and, I may add, of sadness. The main 
thing to be said of these years is that I had a secret 
from him which I guarded to the end. I believe he 
never suspected it, though of this I 'm not absolutely 
sure. If he had so much as an inkling the line he had 
taken, the line of absolute negation of the matter to 

67 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

himself, Shows an immense effort of the will. I may 
at last lay bare my secret, giving it for what it is 

worth; aimj^m.t]^Jiam,J!^^ISLM^^Mi^ that he 
has begun to be alluded to as one of the famous early 
dead and that his wife has ceased to survive him ; now 
too that Miss Ambient, whom I also saw at intervals 
during the time that followed, has, with her em- 
broideries and her attitudes, her necromantic glances 
and strange intuitions, retired to a Sisterhood, where, 
as I am told, she is deeply immured and quite lost 
to the world. 

Mark came in to breakfast after this lady and I 
had for some time been seated there. He shook hands 
with me in silence, kissed my companion, opened 
his letters and newspapers and pretended to drink 
his coffee. But I took these movements for mechan- 
ical and was little surprised when he suddenly pushed 
away everything that was before him and, with his 
head in his hands and his elbows on the table, sat 
staring strangely at the cloth. 

"What's the matter, caro fratello mio?" Miss Am- 
bient quavered, peeping from behind the urn. 

He answered nothing, but got up with a certain 
violence and strodeto|^fi-.WH*dow. We rose to our 
feet, his relative and I, by a common impulse, ex- 
changing a glance of some alarm ; and he continued to 
stare into the^ardeo. "In heaven's name what has 
got possession of Beatrice ? " he cried at last, turning 
round on us a ravaged face. He looked from one of 
us to the other — the appeal was addressed to us alike. 

Miss Ambient gave a shrug. "My poor Mark, 
Beatrice is always — Beatrice ! " 

68 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

"She has locked herself up with the boy — bolted 
and barred the door. She refuses to let me come near 
him ! " he went on. 

"She refused to let Mackintosh see him an hour 
ago!" Miss Ambient promptly returned. 

" Refused to let Mackintosh see him ? By heaven 
I'll smash in the door!" And Mark brought his 
fist down upon the sideboard, which he had now 
approached, so that all the breakfast-service rang. 

I begged Miss Ambient to go up and try to have 
speech of her sister-in-law, and I drew Mark out into 
the garden. "You're exceedingly nervous, and Mrs. 
Ambient 's probably right," I there undertook to 
plead. "Women know; women should be supreme 
in such a situation. Trust a mother — a devoted 
mother, my dear friend ! " With such words as these 
I tried to soothe and comfort him, and, marvellous to 
relate, I succeeded, with the help of many cigarettes, 
in making him walk about the garden and talk, or 
suffer me at least to do so for near an hour. When 
about that time had elapsed his sister reappeared, 
reaching us rapidly and with a convulsed face while 
she held her hand to her heart. 

"Go for the Doctor, Mark — go for the Doctor 
this moment!" 

" Is he dying .? Has she killed him ? " my poor 
friend cried, flinging away his cigarette. 

"I don't know what she has done! But she's 
frightened, and now she wants the Doctor." 

"He told me he'd be hanged if he came back!" I 
felt myself obliged to mention. 

" Precisely — therefore Mark himself must go for 

69 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

him, and not a messenger. You must see him and 
tell him it's to save your child. The trap has been 
ordered — it 's ready." 

"To save him ? I'll save him, please God!" Am- 
bient cried, bounding with his great strides across 
the lawn. 

As soon as he had gone I felt I ought to have 
volunteered in his place, and I said as much to Miss 
Ambient; but she checked me by grasping my arm 
while we heard the wheels of the dog-cart rattle away 
from the gate. "He's off — he's off — and now I 
can think! To get him away — while I think — 
while I think!" 

"While you think of what. Miss Ambient ?" 

"Of the unspeakable thing that has happened 
under this roof!" 

Her manner was habitually that of such a prophet- 
ess of ill that I at first allowed for some great extra- 
vagance. But I looked at her hard, and the next thing 
felt myself turn white. " Dolcino is dying then — 
he's dead?" 

"It's too late to save him. His mother has let 
him die ! I tell you that because you 're sympathetic, 
because you 've imagination," Miss Ambient was good 
enough to add, interrupting my expression of horror. 
"That's why you had the idea of making her read 
Mark's new book!" 

"What has that to do with it ? I don't understand 
you. Your accusation's monstrous." 

" I gee it all — I 'm not stupid," she went on, heed- 
less of my emphasis. "It was the book that finished 
her — it was that decided her ! " 

70 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

" Decided her ? Do you mean she has murdered her 
child ? " I demanded, trembHng at my own words. 

"She sacrificed him; she determined to do nothing 
to make him Hve. Why else did she lock herself 
in, why else did she turn away the Doctor? The 
book gave her a horror; she determined to rescue 
him — to prevent him from ever being touched. He 
had a crisis at two o'clock in the morning. I know 
that from the nurse, who had left her then, but whom, 
for a short time, she called back. The darling got 
much worse, but she insisted on the nurse's going 
back to bed, and after that she was alone with him 
for hours." 

I listened with a dread that stayed my credence, 
while she stood there with her tearless glare. "Do 
you pretend then she has no pity, that she 's cruel and 
insane ? " 

"She held him in her arms, she pressed him to 
her breast, not to see him ; but she gave him no reme^ 
dies; she did nothing the Doctor ordered. Every- 
thing's there untouched. She has had the honesty not 
even to throw the drugs away ! " 

I dropped upon the nearest bench, overcome with 
my dismay — quite as much at Miss Ambient's hor- 
rible insistence and distinctness as at the monstrous 
meaning of her words. Yet they came amazingly 
straight, and if they did have a sense I saw myself 
too woefully figure in it. Had I been then a prox^^ 
imate cause — ? "You 're a very strange woman and 
you say incredible things," I could only reply. 

She had one of her tragic headshakes. "You think 
it necessary to protest, but you 're really quite ready 

71 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

to believe me. You 've received an impression of my 
sister-in-law — you 've guessed of what she's capable." 

I don't feel bound to say what concession on this 
score I made to Miss Ambient, who went on to relate 
to me that within the last half-hour Beatrice had had 
a revulsion, that she was tremendously frightened at 
what she had done; that her fright itself betrayed 
her; and that she would now give heaven and earth 
to save the child. "Let us hope she will!" I said, 
looking at my watch and trying to time poor Ambient; 
whereupon my companion repeated all portentously 
"Let us hope so!" When I asked her if she herself 
could do nothing, and whether she ought n't to be 
with her sister-in-law, she replied: "You had better 
go and judge ! She 's like a wounded tigress ! " 

I never saw Mrs. Ambient till six months after this, 
and therefore can't pretend to have verified the com- 
parison. At the latter period she was again the type 
of the perfect lady. "She'll treat him better after 
this," I remember her sister-in-law's saying in re- 
sponse to some quick outburst, on my part, of com- 
passion for her brother. Though I had been in the 
house but thirty-six hours this young lady had treated 
me with extraordinary confidence, and there was 
therefore a certain demand I might, as such an intim- 
ate, make of her. I extracted from her a pledge that 
she 'd never say to her brother what she had just said 
to me, that she'd let him form his own theory of 
his wife's conduct. She agreed with me that there 
was misery enough in the house without her contrib- 
uting a new anguish, and that Mrs. Ambient's pro- 
ceedings might be explained, to her husband's mind, 

72 



THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO 

by the extravagance of a jealous devotion. Poor Mark 
came back with the Doctor much sooner than we could 
have hoped, but we knew five minutes afterwards that 
it was all too late. His sole, his adored little son was 
more exquisitely beautiful in death than he had been 
in life. Mrs. Ambient's grief was frantic; she lost her 
head and said strange things. As for Mark's — but 
I won't speak of that. Basta, hasta, as he used to say. 
Miss Ambient kept her secret — I 've already had 
occasion to say that she had her good points — but 
it rankled in her conscience like a guilty participa- 
tion and, I imagine, had something to do with her 
ultimately retiring from the world. And, apropos of 
consciences, the reader is now in a position to judge 
of my compunction for my effort to convert my cold 
hostess. I ought to mention that the death of her child 
in some degree converted her. When the new book 
came out (it was long delayed) she read it over as a 
whole, and her husband told me that during the few 
supreme weeks before her death — she failed rapidly 
after losing her son, sank into a consumption and 
faded away at Mentone — she even dipped into the 
black "Beltraffio." 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 
I 

The April day was soft and bright, and poor Den- 
combe, happy in the conceit of reasserted strength, 
stoo d in the ,p; arden of the hotel, comparing, with a 
deliberation in which however there was still some- 
thing of languor, the attractions of easy strolls. He 
liked the feeling of the south so far as you could have 
it in the north, he liked the sandy cliffs and the clus- 
tered pines, he liked even the colourless sea. " Bourne- 
mouth as a health-resort " had sounded like a mere 
advertisement, but he was thankful now for the com- 
monest conveniences. The sociable country postman, 
passing through the garden, had just given him a 
small parcel which he took out with him, leaving the 
hotel to the right and creeping to a bench he had 
already haunted, a safe recess in the cliff. It looked 
to the south, to the tinted walls of the Island, and was 
protected behind by the sloping shoulder of the down. 
He was tired enough when he reached it, and for a 
moment was disappointed ; he was better of course, 
but better, after all, than what? He should never 
again, as at one or two great moments of the past, 
be better than himself. The infinite of life was gone, 
and what remained of the dose a small glass scored 
like a thermometer by the apothecary. He sat and 
stared at the sea, which appeared all surface and 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

twinkle, far shallower than the spirit of man. It was 
the abyss of human illusion that was the real, the tide- 
less deep. He held his packet, which had come by 
book-post, unopened on his knee, liking, in the lapse 
of so many joys — his illness had made him feel his 
age — to know it was there, but taking for granted 
there could be no complete renewal of the pleasure, 
dear to young experience, of seeing one's self "just 
out." Dencombe, who had a reputation, had come 
out too often and knew too well in advance how he 
should look. 

His postponement associated itself vaguely, after 
a little, with a group of three persons, two ladies 
and a young man, whom, beneath him, straggling 
and seemingly silent, he could see move slowly to- 
gether along the sands. The gentleman had his head 
bent over a book and was occasionally brought to a 
stop by the charm of this volume, which, as Den- 
combe could perceive even at a distance, had a cover 
alluringly red. Then his companions, going a little 
further, waited for him to come up, poking their 
parasols into the beach, looking around them at the 
sea and sky and clearly sensible of the beauty of the 
day. To these things the young man with the book 
was still more clearly indifferent; lingering, credul- 
ous, absorbed, he was an object of envy to an ob- 
server from whose connexion with literature all such 
artlessness had faded. One of the ladies was large 
and mature; the other had the spareness of compara- 
tive youth and of a social situation possibly inferior. 
The large lady carried back Dencombe's imagination 
to the age of crinoline; she wore a hat of the shape of 

78 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

a mushroom, decorated with a blue veil, and had the 
air, in her aggressive amplitude, of clinging to a van- 
ished fashion or even a lost cause. Presently her 
companion produced from under the folds of a mantle 
a limp portable chair which she stiffened out and of 
which the large lady took possession. TKi .s art, and, 
s^Om fithmg^n-tha ^jmoJ^emfnt-jCiLfiither party^atonce i 
characterise d the pe rfo rmers — they performed for ' 
Denco mbe's recreation — ^ji opulent m atron and 
hu mble dep endent. Where moreover was the virtue 
of an approved~novelist if one could n't establish a 
relation between such figures ? the clever theory for 
instance that the young man was the son of the opulent 
matron and that the humble dependent, the daughter 
of a clergyman or an officer, nourished a secret pas- 
sion for him. Was that not visible from the way 
she stole behind her protectress to look back at him ? 
— back to where he had let himself come to a full stop 
when his mother sat down to rest. His book was a 
novel, it had the catchpenny binding; so that while 
the romance of life stood neglected at his side he lost 
himself in that of the circulating library. He moved I 
mechanically to where the sand was softer and ended 
by plumping down in it to finish his chapter at his 
ease. The humble dependent, discouraged by his 
remoteness, wandered with a martyred droop of the 
head in another direction, and the exorbitant lady, 
watching the waves, offered a confused resemblance 
to a flying-machine that had broken down. 

When his drama began to fail^Dencombe remem- 
bered that he had after all another pastime. Though 
such promptitude on the part of the publisher was 

79 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

rare he was already able to draw from its wrapper 
his "latest," perhaps his last. The cover of "The 
Middle Years" was duly meretricious, the smell of 
the frfesh pages the very odour of sanctity; but for the 
moment he went no further — he had become con- 
scious of a strange alienation. He had forgotten what 
his book was about. Had the assault of his old ail- 
ment, which he had so fallaciously come to Bourne- 
mouth to ward off, interposed utter blankness as to 
what had preceded it ? He had finished the revision 
of proof before quitting London, but his subsequent 
fortnight in bed had passed the sponge over colour; 
He could n't have chanted to himself a single sen- 
tence, could n't have turned with curiosity or confid- 
ence to any particular page. His subject had already 
gone from him, leaving scarce a superstition behind. 
He uttered a low moan as he breathed the chill of this 
dark void, so desperately it seemed to represent the 
completion of a sinister process. The tears filled his 
mild eyes; something precious had passed away. 
This.-was-the-paitg.thatJxad-h egn sharpest durin g the 
l a c f fp w ypa r s.^=. thp , sp . n ^ e -nf ebbing time, nf .sh-wnking 
opportunit yj-ard now he fp.lr nnt sn mtirb thaf his 
last- cbance-was-goina:_as ._ that it was gone indeed. 
^ HfiJiad_.dene_alL he should ever do, and yet hadn't 
dQii£_sdiaLJie.Ji»anted. This was the laceration—" 
that practically his career was over : it was as violent 
as a grip at his throat. He rose from his seat nervously 
— a creature hunted by a dread ; then he fell back in 
his weakness and nervously opened his book. It was 
a single volume; he preferred single volumes and 
aimed at a rare compression. He began to read and, 

80 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

little by little, in this occupation, was pacified and 
reassured. Everything came back to him, but came 
back with a wonder, came back above all with a high 
and magnificent beauty. He read his own prose, he 
turned his own leaves, and had as he sat there with 
the spring sunshine on the page an emotion peculiar 
and intense. His career was over, no doubt, but it was 
over, when all was said, with that. 

He had forgotten during his illness the work of 
the previous year; but what he had chiefly forgotten 
was that it was extraordinarily good. He dived once 
more into his story and was drawn down, as by a ( 
siren's hand, to where, in the dim underworld of i 
fiction, the great glazed tank of art, strange silent 
subjects float. He recognised his motive and surrend- i 
ered to his talent. Never probably had that talent, 
such as it was, been so fine. His diflRculties were still 
there, but what was also there, to his perception, 
though probably, alas! to nobody's else, was the art 
that in most cases had surmounted them. In his 
surprised enjoyment of this ability he had a glimpse 
of a possible reprieve. Surely its force was n't spent 
— there was life and service in it yet. It had n't come 
to him easily, it had been backward and roundabout. 
It wag tVip rhijd nf nme,.-ttw-iwH'stitvg-o£-cl&lay : he had | 
strug gled and suffered for it. mak ing sacrifices not | 
to be counted ,_and noAKJthaLiO£as_really rnature was i 

it tn rp^Kf 1-n yi^ldj tn rnnfpss itsplf hrii tally beaten ? 1 

Tliere was an infinite charm for Dencombe in feeling 
as he had never felt before that diligence vincit omnia. \ 
The result produced in his little book was somehow 
a result beyond his conscious intention : it was as if 

8i 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

he had planted his genius, had trusted his method, 
and they had grown up and flowered with this sweet- 
ness. If the achievement had been real, however, the 
process had been painful enough. What he saw so 
intensely to-day, what he felt as a nail driven in, was 
that only now, at the very last, had he come into 

\/ possession. His development had been abnormally 
slow, almost grotesquely gradual. He had been hin- 
dered and retarded by experience, he had for long 
periods only groped his way. Ithad-taken-lOQ jnuch 

\/ of his lifeLto produce too little of his art^ Theart had 
come, but it. had.-come_after.eyery thing else. At such 
a rate a first existence was too short — fbng enough 
only to collect material ; so that to fructify, to use the 
/ material, one should have a second age, an extension. 
/ This extension was what poor Dencombe sighed for. 
j As he turned the last leaves of his volume he mur- 
ium ured "Ah for another go, ah for a better chance!" 
The three persons drawing his attention to the 
sands had vanished and then reappeared; they had 
now wandered up a path, an artificial and easy ascent, 
which led to the top of the cliff. Dencombe's bench 
was halfway down, on a sheltered ledge, and the 
large lady, a massive heterogeneous person with 
bold black eyes and kind red cheeks, now took a few 
moments to rest. She wore dirty gauntlets and im- 
mense diamond ear-rings; at first she looked vulgar, 
but she contradicted this announcement in an agree- 
able off-hand tone. While her companions stood 
waiting for her she spread her skirts on the end of 
Dencombe's seat. The young man had gold spec- 
tacles, through which, with his finger still in his red- 

82 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

covered book, he glanced at the volume, bound in 
the same shade of the same colour, lying on the lap 
of the original occupant of the bench. After an 
instant Dencombe felt him struck with a resemblance ; 
he had recognised the gilt stamp on the crimson cloth, 
was reading "The Middle Years" and now noted 
that somebody else had kept pace with him. The 
stranger was startled, possibly even a little ruffled, 
to find himself not the only person favoured with an 
early copy. The eyes of the two proprietors met a 
moment, and Dencombe borrowed amusement from 
the expression of those of his competitor, those, it 
might even be inferred, of his admirer. They con- 
fessed to some resentment — they seemed to say : 
"Hang it, has he got it already? Of course he's 
a brute of a reviewer ! " Dencombe shuffled his copy 
out of sight while the opulent matron, rising from her 
repose, broke out : " I feel already the good of this 
air!" 

" I can't say I do," said the angular lady. " I find 
myself quite let down." 

" I find myself horribly hungry. At what time did 
you order luncheon ? " her protectress pursued. 

The young person put the question by. "Doctor 
Hugh always orders it." 

" I ordered nothing to-day — I 'm going to make 
you diet," said their comrade. 

"Then I shall go home and sleep. Qui dort dine!" 

"Can I trust you to Miss Vernham ? " asked Doctor 
Hugh of his elder companion. 

"Don't I trust you?" she archly enquired. 

"Not too much!" Miss Vernham, with her eyes 

83 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

on the ground, permitted herself to declare. "You 
must come with us at least to the house," she went 
on while the personage on whom they appeared to be 
in attendance began to mount higher. She had got 
a little out of ear-shot; nevertheless Miss Vernham 
became, so far as Dencombe was concerned, less dis- 
tinctly audible to murmur to the young man : " I don't 
think you realise all you owe the Countess ! " 

Absently, a moment, Doctor Hugh caused his gold- 
rimmed spectacles to shine at her. " Is that the way 
I strike you ? I see — I see ! " 

"She's awfully good to us," continued Miss Vern- 
ham, compelled by the lapse of the other's motion to 
stand there in spite of his discussion of private mat- 
ters. Of what use would it have been that Dencombe 
should be sensitive to shades had n't he detected in 
that arrest a strange influence from the quiet old 
convalescent in the great tweed cape ? Miss Vernham 
appeared suddenly to become aware of some such 
connexion, for she added in a moment : " If you want 
to sun yourself here you can come back after you 've 
seen us home." 

Doctor Hugh, at this, hesitated, and Dencombe, 
in spite of a desire to pass for unconscious, risked a 
covert glance at him. What his eyes met this time, 
as happened, was, on the part of the young lady, a 
queer stare, naturally vitreous, which made her re- 
mind him of some figure — he could n't name it — in 
a play or a novel, some sinister governess or tragic 
old maid. She seemed to scan him, to challenge him, 
to say out of general spite: "What have you got to 
do with us ? " At the same instant the rich humour 

84 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

of the Countess reached them from above : " Come, 
come, my little lambs; you should follow your old 
bergere!" Miss Vernham turned away for it, pur- 
suing the ascent, and Doctor Hugh, after another 
mute appeal to Dencombe and a minute's evident 
demur, deposited his book on the bench as if to keep 
his place, or even as a gage of earnest return, and 
bounded without difficulty up the rougher part of the 
cliff. 

Equally innocent and infinite are the pleasures of 
observation and the resources engendered by the 
trick of analysing life. It amused poor Dencombe, 
as he dawdled in his tepid air-bath, to believe himself 
awaiting a revelation of something at the back of a 
fine young mind. He looked hard at the book on the 
end of the bench, but would n't have touched it for 
the world. It served his purpose to have a theory that 
should n't be exposed to refutation. He already felt 
better of his melancholy; he had, according to his^ 
old formula, pyf bjg ^^'^^ ^<' *^^ window. A passing j 
Countess could draw off the fancy when, like the 
elder of the ladies who had just retreated, she was 
as obvious as the giantess of a caravan. It was indeed 
general views that were terrible; short ones, contrary 
to an opinion sometimes expressed, were the refuge, 
were the remedy. Doctor Hugh could n't possibly 
be anything but a reviewer who had understandings 
for early copies with publishers or with newspapers. 
He reappeared in a quarter of an hour with visible 
relief at finding Dencombe on the spot and the gleam 
. of white teeth in an embarrassed but generous smile. 
He was perceptibly disappointed at the eclipse of the 

85 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

other copy of the book; it made a pretext the less 
for speaking to the quiet gentleman. But he spoke 
notwithstanding; he held up his own copy and 
broke out pleadingly: "Do say, if you have occasion 
to speak of it, that it's the best thing he has done 
yet!" 

Dencombe responded with a laugh: "Done yet" 
was so amusing to him, made such a grand avenue 
of the future. Better still, the young man took him 
for a reviewer. He pulled out "The Middle Years" 
from under his cape, but instinctively concealed any 
telltale look ^f %tfaf hnffj This was partly because 
a person was always a fool for insisting to others on 
his work. "Is that what you're going to say your- 
self.?" he put to his visitor. 

" I 'm not quite sure I shall write anything. I don't, 
as a regular thing — I enjoy in peace. But it 's awfully 
fine." 

Dencombe just debated. If the young man had 
begun to abuse him he would have confessed on the 
spot to his identity, but there was no harm in drawing 
out any impulse to praise. He drew it out with such 
success that in a few moments his new acquaintance, 
seated by his side, was confessing candidly that the 
works of the author of the volumes before them were 
the only ones he could read a second time. He had 
come the day before from London, where a friend of 
his, a journalist, had lent him his copy of the last, 
the copy sent to the office of the journal and already 
the subject of a "notice" which, as was pretended 
there — but one had to allow for " swagger " — it 
had taken a full quarter of an hour to prepare. He 

86 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

intimated that he was ashamed for his friend, and in 
the case of a work demanding and repaying study, 
of such inferior manners; and, with his fresh apprecia- 
tion and his so irregular wish to express it, he speedily 
became for poor Dencombe a remarkable, a delight- 
ful apparition. Chance had brought the weary man( 
of letters face to face with the greatest admirer in the! 
new generation of whom it was supposable he mightj 
boast. The admirer in truth was mystifying, so rarej 
a case was it to find a bristling young doctor — he 
looked like a German physiologist — enamoured of 
literary form. It was an accident, but happier than 
most accidents, so that Dencombe, exhilarated as 
well as confounded, spent half an hour in making his 
visitor talk while he kept himself quiet. He explained 
his premature possession of "The Middle Years" by 
an allusion to the friendship of the publisher, who, 
knowing he was at Bournemouth for his health, had 
paid him this graceful attention. He allowed he had 
been ill, for Doctor Hugh would infallibly have 
guessed it; he even went so far as to wonder if he 
might n't look for some hygienic " tip " from a person- 
age combining so bright an enthusiasm with a pre- 
sumable knowledge of the remedies now in vogue. 
It would shake his faith a little perhaps to have to 
take a doctor seriously who could take him so seri- j 
ously, but he enjoyed this gushing modern youth and 
felt with an acute pang that there would still be work 
to do in a world in which such odd combinations were 
presented. It was n't true, what he had tried for 
renunciation's sake to believe, that all the combina- 
tions were exhausted. They were n't by any means 

87 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

— they were infinite : the exhaustion was in the miser- 
able artist. 

Doctor Hugh, an ardent physiologist, was saturated 
with the spirit of the age — in other words he had 
just taken his degree; but he was independent and 
various, he talked like a man who would have pre- 
ferred to love literature best. He would fain have 
made fine phrases, but nature had denied him the 
trick. Some of the finest in "The Middle Years " had 
struck him inordinately, and he took the liberty of 
reading them to Dencombe in support of his plea- 
He grew vivid, in the balmy air, to his companion, 
for whose deep refreshment he seemed to have been 
sent; and was particularly ingenuous in describing 
how recently he had become acquainted, and how 
instantly infatuated, with the only man who had put 
flesh between the ribs of an art that was starving on 
sii perstitinns - He had n't yet written to him — he 
was deterred by a strain of respect. Dencombe at 
this moment rejoiced more inwardly than ever that 
he had never answered the photographers. His visit- 
or's attitude promised him a luxury of intercourse, 
though he was sure a due freedom for Doctor Hugh 
would depend not a little on the Countess. He learned 
without delay what type of Countess was involved, 
mastering as well the nature of the tie that united 
the curious trio. The large lady, an Englishwoman 
by birth and the daughter of a celebrated baritone, 
whose taste minus his talent she had inherited, was 
the widow of a French nobleman and mistress of all 
that remained of the handsome fortune, the fruit of 
her father's earnings, that had constituted her dower. 

88 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

Miss Vernham, an odd creature but an accomplished 
pianist, was attached to her person at a salary. The 
Countess was generous, independent, eccentric; she 
travelled with her minstrel and her medical man. 
Ignorant and passionate she had nevertheless mo- 
ments in which she was almost irresistible. Den- 
combe saw her sit for her portrait in Doctor Hugh's i 
free sketch, and felt the picture of his young friend's / 
relation to her frame itself in his mind. This young] 
friend, for a representative of the new psychology, 
was himself easily hypnotised, and if he became ab- 
normally communicative it was only a sign of hisj 
real subjection. Dencombe* did accordingly what he \ 
wanted with him, even without being known as Den- 
combe. 

Taken ill on a journey in Switzerland the Countess 
had picked him up at an hotel, and the accident of 
his happening to please her had made her offer him, 
with her imperious liberality, terms that could n't 
fail to dazzle a practitioner without patients and 
whose resources had been drained dry by his studies. 
It was n't the way he would have proposed to spend 
his time, but it was time that would pass quickly, and 
meanwhile she was wonderfully kind. She exacted 
perpetual attention, but it was impossible not to like 
her. He gave details about his queer patient, a " type " 
if there ever was one, who had in connexion with her 
flushed obesity, and in addition to the morbid strain 
of a violent and aimless will, a grave organic disorder; 
but he came back to his loved novelist, whom he was 
so good as to pronounce more essentially a poet than 
many of those who went in for verse, with a zeal ex- 

89 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

cited, as all his indiscretion had been excited, by the 
happy chance of Dencombe's sympathy and the 
coincidence of their occupation. Dencombe had con- 
fessed to a slight personal acquaintance with the 
author of "The Middle Years," but had not felt 
himself as ready as he could have wished when his 
companion, who had never yet encountered a being 
so privileged, began to be eager for particulars. He 
even divined in Doctor Hugh's eye at that moment 
a glimmer of suspicion. But the young man was too 
inflamed to be shrewd and repeatedly caught up the 
book to exclaim : " Did you notice this ? " or " Were n't 
you immensely struck with that ? " " There 's a beau- 
tiful passage toward the end," he broke out; and 
again he laid his hand on the volume. As he turned 
the pages he came upon something else, while Den- 
combe saw him suddenly change colour. He had 
taken up as it lay on the bench Dencombe's copy 
instead of his own, and his neighbour at once guessed 
the reason of his start. Doctor Hugh looked grave 
an instant; then he said: "I see you've been altering 
the text!" Denco mbe ^s a passionate rnrrertnr j a 
> fingerer of style; the last thin g he ever arri ved at was 
^a form fina l for himsel £ His ideal would have been 
to publish secretly, and then, on the published text, 
treat himself to the terrified revise, sacrificing always 
a first edition and beginning for posterity and even 
for the collectors, poor dears, with a second. This 
morning, in "The Middle Years," his pencil had 
pricked a dozen lights. He was amused at the effect 
of the young man's reproach; for an instant it made 
him change colour. He stammered at any rate 

90 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

ambiguously, then through a blur of ebbing con- 
sciousness saw Doctor Hugh's mystified eyes. He 
only had time to feel he was about to be ill again — 
that emotion, excitement, fatigue, the heat of the sun, 
the solicitation of the air, had combined to play him 
a trick, before, stretching out a hand to his visitor 
with a plaintive cry, he lost his senses altogether. 

Later he knew he had fainted and that Doctor 
Hugh had got him home in a Bath-chair, the con- 
ductor of which, prowling within hail for custom, 
had happened to remember seeing him in the garden 
of the hotel. He had recovered his perception on the 
way, and had, in bed that afternoon, a vague recol- 
lection of Doctor Hugh's young face, as they went 
together, bent over him in a comforting laugh and 
expressive of something more than a suspicion of his 
identity. That identity was ineffaceable now, and 
all the more that he was rueful and sore. He had been 
rash, been stupid, had gone out too soon, stayed out 
too long. He ought n't to have exposed himself to 
strangers, he ought to have taken his servant. He 
felt as if he had fallen into a hole too deep to descry 
any little patch of heaven. He was confused about 
the time that had passed — he pieced the fragments 
together. He had seen his doctor, the real one, the 
one who had treated him from the first and who had 
again been very kind. His servant was in and out on 
tiptoe, looking very wise after the fact. He said more 
than once something about the sharp young gentle- 
man. The rest was vagueness in so far as it was n't 
despair. The vagueness, however, justified itself by 
dreams, dozing anxieties from which he finally 

91 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

emerged to the consciousness of a dark room and a 
shaded candle. 

"You '11 be all right again — I know all about you 
now," said a voice near him that he felt to be 
young. Then his meeting with Doctor Hugh came 
back. He was too discouraged to joke about it yet, 
but made out after a little that the interest was intense 
for his visitor. "Of course I can't attend you pro- 
fessionally — you 've got your own man, with whom 
I 've talked and who *s excellent," Doctor Hugh went 
on. " But you must let me come to see you as a good 
friend. I've just looked in before going to bed. 
You're doing beautifully, but it's a good job I was 
with you on the cliff. I shall come in early to-morrow. 
I want to do something for you. I want to do every- 
thing. You've done a tremendous lot for me." The 
young man held his hand, hanging over him, and poor 
Dencombe, weakly aware of this living pressure, 
simply lay there and accepted his devotion. He 
could n't do anything less — he needed help too 
much. 

The idea of the help he needed was very present 
to him that night, which he spent in a lucid stillness, 
an intensity of thought that constituted a reaction 
from his hours of stupor. He was lost, he was lost — 
he was lost if he could n't be saved. He was n't afraid 
of suffering, of death, was n't even in love with life; 
but he had had a deep demonstration of desire. It 
came over him in the long quiet hours that only with 
"The Middle Years" had he taken his flight; only 
on that day, visited by soundless processions, had he 
recognised his kingdom. He had had a revelation of 

92 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

his range. What he dreaded was the idea that his 
reputation should stand on the unfinished. It was n't 
with his past but with his future that it should pro- 
perly be concerned. Illness and age rose before 
him like spectres with pitiless eyes : how was he to 
bribe such fates to give him the second chance ? He 
had had the one chance that all men have — he had 
had the chance of life. He went to sleep again very 
late, and when he awoke Doctor Hugh was sitting at 
hand. There was already by this time something 
beautifully familiar in him. 

" Don't think I 've turned out your physician," he 
said; "I'm acting with his consent. He has been 
here and seen you. Somehow he seems to trust me. 
I told him how we happened to come together yester- 
day, and he recognises that I 've a peculiar right." 

Dencombe felt his own face pressing. "How have 
you squared the Countess ? " 

The young man blushed a little, but turned it off. 
"Oh never mind the Countess!" 

"You told me she was very exacting." 

Doctor Hugh had a wait. "So she is. 

"And Miss Vernham's an intrigante.' 

"How do you know that?" 

"I know everything. One has to, to write de- 
cently ! ' 

"I think she's mad," said limpid Doctor Hugh. 

"Well, don't quarrel with the Countess — she's 
a present help to you." 

"I don't quarrel," Doctor Hugh returned. "But I 
don't get on with silly women." Presently he added : 
"You seem very much alone." 

93 



>> 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

"That often happens at my age. I've outlived, 
I 've lost by the way." 

Doctor Hugh faltered; then surmounting a soft 
scruple: "Whom have you lost?" 

"Every one." 

"Ah no," the young man breathed, laying a hand 
on his arm. 

"I once had a wife — I once had a son. M y wife 
HiVjjjBJipnMmj^jJTnfl was hnrn, ^nd my boy..a t-SchQoK 
was carried nff h y typhoid." 

"I wish I'd been there!" cried Doctor Hugh. 

"Well — if you're here!" Dencombe answered 
with a smile that, in spite of dimness, showed how 
he valued being sure of his companions's where- 
abouts. 

"You talk strangely of your age. You 're not old," 

" Hypocrite — so early ! " 

"I speak physiologically." 

"That's the way I've been speaking for the last 
five years, and it 's exactly what I 've been saying to 
myself. It is n't till we are old that we begin to tell 
ourselves we're not." 

"Yet I know I myself am young," Doctor Hugh 
returned. 

"Not so well as I!" laughed his patient, whose 
visitor indeed would have established the truth in 
question by the honesty with which he changed the 
point of view, remarking that it must be one of the 
charms of age — at any rate in the case of high dis- 
tinction — to feel that one has laboured and achieved. 
Doctor Hugh employed the common phrase about 
earning one's rest, and it made poor Dencombe for 

94 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

an instant almost angry. He recovered himself, how- 
ever, to explain, lucidly enough, that if, ungraciously, 
he knew nothing of such a balm, it was doubtless 
because he had wasted inestimable years. He had 
followed literature from the first, but he had taken 
a lifetime to get abreast of her. Only to-day at last / 
had he begun to see, so that all he had hitherto/ 
shown was a movement without a direction. He' 
had ripened too late and was so clumsily constituted 
that he had had to teach himself by mistakes. 

" I prefer your flowers then to other people's fruit, 
and your mistakes to other people's successes," said 
gallant Doctor Hugh. "It's for your mistakes I 
admire you." 

"You're happy — you don't know," Dencombe 
answered. 

Looking at his watch the young man had got up; 
he named the hour of the afternoon at which he would 
return. Dencombe warned him against committing 
himself too deeply, and expressed again all his dread 
of making him neglect the Countess — perhaps incur 
her displeasure. 

"I want to be like you — I want to learn by mis- 
takes!" Doctor Hugh laughed. 

"Take care you don't make too grave a one! But 
do come back," Dencombe added with the glimmer 
of a new idea. 

"You should have had more vanity!" His friend 
spoke as if he knew the exact amount required to 
make a man of letters normal. 

"No, no — I only should have had more time. I 
want another go." 

95 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

"Another go?" 

"I want an extension." 

"An extension?" Again Doctor Hugh repeated 
Dencombe's words, with which he seemed to have 
been struck. 

"Don't you know? — I want to what they call 
'live.'" 

The young man, for good-bye, had taken his hand, 

which closed with a certain force. They looked at 

^ each other hard. "You will live," said Doctor Hugh. 

\ "Don't be superficial. It 's too serious 1" 

\~ "You shall live!" Dencombe's visitor declared, 

I turning pale. 

"Ah that's better!" And as he retired the invalid, 
with a troubled laugh, sank gratefully back. 

All that day and all the following night he won- 
dered if it might n't be arranged. His doctor came 
again, his servant was attentive, but it was to his 
confident young friend that he felt himself mentally 
appeal. His collapse on the cliff was plausibly ex- 
plained and his liberation, on a better basis, promised 
for the morrow; meanwhile, however, the intensity 
of his meditations kept him tranquil and made him 
indifferent. The idea that occupied him was none 
the less absorbing because it was a morbid fancy. 
Here was a clever son of the age, ingenious and 
ardent, who happened to have set him up for connois- 
seurs to worship. This servant of his altar had all the 
new learning in science and all the old reverence in 
faith ; would n't he therefore put his knowledge at 
the disposal of his sympathy, his craft at the disposal 
of his love ? Could n't he be trusted to invent a remedy 

96 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

for a poor artist to whose art he had paid a tribute ? i . / 
If he could n't the alternative was hard : Dencombe 
would have to surrender to silence unvindicated and 1 
undivined. The rest of the day and all the next he 
toyed in secret with this sweet futility. Who would 
work the miracle for him but the young man who 
could combine such lucidity with such passion ? He 
thought of the fairy-tales of science and charmed him- 
self into forgetting that he looked for a magic that was 
not of this world. Doctor Hugh was an apparition, 
and that placed him above the law. He came and 
went while his patient, who now sat up, followed him 
with supplicating eyes. The interest of knowing the 
great author had made the young man begin "The 
Middle Years " afresh and would help him to find a 
richer sense between its covers. Dencombe had told | 
him what he " tried for"; with allhis inteftige nce, o n^ 
a first perusal, Doctor Ji«ghJh.adJidfii-jE]^giiessJt. I 
The J3affledjC£kbxity_ffi3nder£djii£njdh-QJn^ 
would guess.it: he, was amus ed once more at the 
diffused massiv e weight that could bej dbxQwrLiDia-th& 
missin g of an intention ._JYet-he w o u ld-n^-xaiLaLlhe _. 
general mi nd to -day — consoling„ ^S-thalL.ever had 
hppn : t\\e. revRlatlcu i.ji£Jii^-oMai-&lewness-bad seemed , 
_ to make all stupidity sacred. 

Doctor Hugh, after a little, was visibly worried, 
confessing, on enquiry, to a source of embarrassment 
at home. "Stick to the Countess — don't mind me," 
Dencombe said repeatedly; for his companion was 
frank enough about the large lady's attitude. She 
was so jealous that she had fallen ill — she resented 
such a breach of allegiance. She paid so much for 

97 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

his fidelity that she must have it all : she refused him 
the right to other sympathies, charged him with 
scheming to make her die alone, for it was needless 
to point out how little Miss Vernham was a resource 
in trouble. When Doctor Hugh mentioned that the 
Countess would already have left Bournemouth if he 
had n't kept her in bed, poor Dencombe held his arm 
tighter and said with decision: "Take her straight 
away." They had gone out together, walking back 
to the sheltered nook in which, the other day, they 
had met. The young man, who had given his com- 
panion a personal support, declared with emphasis 
that his conscience was clear — he could ride two 
horses at once. Did n't he dream for his future of 
a time when he should have to ride five hundred ? 
Longing equally for virtue, Dencombe replied that 
in that golden age no patient would pretend to have 
contracted with him for his whole attention. On the 
part of the Countess was n't such an avidity lawful ? 
Doctor Hugh denied it, said there was no contract, 
but only a free understanding, and that a sordid 
servitude was impossible to a generous spirit; he 
liked moreover to talk about art, and that was the 
subject on which, this time, as they sat together on 
the sunny bench, he tried most to engage the author 
of "The Middle Years." Dencombe, soaring again a 
little on the weak wings of convalescence and still 
haunted by that happy notion of an organised rescue, 
found another strain of eloquence to plead the cause 
of a certain splendid "last manner," the very citadel, 
as it would prove, of his reputation, the stronghold 
into which his real treasure would be gathered. While 

98 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

his listener gave up the morning and the great still 
sea ostensibly waited he had a wondrous explanatory 
hour. Even for himself he was inspired as he told 
what his treasure would consist of; the precious metals 
he would dig from the mine, the jewels rare, strings 
of pearls, he would hang between the columns of his 
temple. He was wondrous for himself, so thick his 
convictions crowded, but still more wondrous for 
Doctor Hugh, who assured him none the less that 
the very pages he had just pubhshed were already 
encrusted with gems. This admirer, however, panted 
for the combinations to come and, before the face of 
the beautiful day, renewed to Dencombe his guarantee 
that his profession would hold itself responsible for 
such a life. Then he suddenly clapped his hand upon 
his watch-pocket and asked leave to absent himself 
for half an hour. Dencombe waited there for his 
return, but was at last recalled to the actual by the 
fill ^L 9 fi hadow across jhe groun d. The shadow 
dar kened in to that oTMissl/ernham, the young lady 
in attendance on the Countess; whom Dencombe, 
recognising her, perceived so clearly to have come 
to speak to him that he rose from his bench to acknow- 
ledge the civility. Miss Vernham indeed proved not 
particularly civil; she looked strangely agitated, and 
her type was now unmistateable. 

"Excuse me if I do ask," she said, "whether it's 
too much to hope that you may be induced to leave 
Doctor Hugh alone." Then before our poor friend, 
greatly disconcerted, could protest: "You ought to 
be informed that you stand in his light — that you 
may do him a terrible injury." 

99 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

"Do you mean by causing the Countess to dis- 
pense with his services ? " 

"By causing her to disinherit him." Dencombe 
stared at this, and Miss Vernham pursued, in the 
gratification of seeing she could produce an impres- 
sion : " It has depended on himself to come into some- 
thing very handsome. He has had a grand prospect, 
but I think you 've succeeded in spoiling it." 

"Not intentionally, I assure you. Is there no hope 
the accident may be repaired ? " Dencombe asked. 

"She was ready to do anything for him. She takes 
great fancies, she lets herself go — it 's her way. She 
has no relations, she 's free to dispose of her money, 
and she 's very ill," said Miss Vernham for a climax. 

" I 'm very sorry to hear it," Dencombe stammered. 

"Would n't it be possible for you to leave Bourne- 
mouth ? That 's what I 've come to see about." 

He sank to his bench. "I'm very ill myself, but 
I'll try!" 

Miss Vernham still stood there with her colourless 
eyes and the brutality of her good conscience. "Be- 
fore it 's too late, please ! " she said ; and with this she 
turned her back, in order, quickly, as if it had been 
a business to which she could spare but a precious 
moment, to pass out of his sight. 

Oh yes, after this Dencombe was certainly very 
ill. Miss Vernham had upset him with her rough 
fierce news ; it was the sharpest shock to him to dis- 
cover what was at stake for a penniless young man 
of fine parts. He sat trembling on his bench, staring 
at the waste of waters, feeling sick with the directness 
of the blow. He was indeed too weak, too unsteady, 

100 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

too alarmed; but he would make the effort to get 
away, for he could n't accept the guilt of interference 
and his honour was really involved. He would hobble 
home, at any rate, and then think what was to be 
done. He made his way back to the hotel and, as he 
went, had a characteristic vision of Miss Vernham's 
great motive. The Countess hated women of course 

— Dencombe was lucid about that ; so the hungry 
pianist had no personal hopes and could only console 
herself with the bold conception of helping Doctor 
Hugh in order to marry him after he should get his 
money or else induce him to recognise her claim for 
compensation and buy her off. If she had befriended 
him at a fruitful crisis he would really, as a man of 
delicacy — and she knew what to think of that point 

— have to reckon with her. 

At the hotel Dencombe's servant insisted on his 
going back to bed. The invalid had talked about 
catching a train and had begun with orders to pack; 
after which his racked nerves had yielded to a sense 
of sickness. He consented to see his physician, who 
immediately was sent for, but he wished it to be 
understood that his door was irrevocably closed to 
Doctor Hugh. He had his plan, which was so fine 
that he rejoiced in it after getting back to bed. Doctor 
Hugh, suddenly finding himself snubbed without 
mercy, would, in natural disgust and to the joy of 
Miss Vernham, renew his allegiance to the Countess. 
When his physician arrived Dencombe learned that 
he was feverish and that this was very wrong : he was 
to cultivate calmness and try, if possible, not to think. 
For the rest of the day he wooed stupidity; but there 

lOI 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

was an ache that kept him sentient, the probable 
sacrifice of his "extension," the limit of his course. 
His medical adviser was anything but pleased; his 
successive relapses were ominous. He charged this 
personage to put out a strong hand and take Doctor 
Hugh off his mind — it would contribute so much to 
his being quiet. The agitating name, in his room, 
was not mentioned again, but his security was a 
smothered fear, and it was not confirmed by the 
receipt, at ten o'clock that evening, of a telegram 
which his servant opened and read him and to which, 
with an address in London, the signature of Miss 
Vernham was attached. " Beseech you to use all influ- 
ence to make our friend join us here in the morning. 
Countess much the worse for dreadful journey, but 
everything may still be saved." The two ladies had 
gathered themselves up and had been capable in the 
afternoon of a spiteful revolution. They had started 
for the capital, and if the elder one, as Miss Vern- 
ham had announced, was very ill, she had wished to 
make it clear that she was proportionately reckless. 
Poor Dencombe, who was not reckless and who only 
desired that everything should indeed be "saved," 
sent this missive straight oflF to the young man's lodg- 
ing and had on the morrow the pleasure of knowing 
that he had quitted Bournemouth by an early train. 
Two days later he pressed in with a copy of a liter- 
ary journal in his hand. He had returned because 
he was anxious and for the pleasure of flourishing the 
great review of "The Middle Years." Here at least 
was something adequate — it rose to the occasion ; 
it was an acclamation, a reparation, a critical attempt 

102 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

to place the author in the niche he had fairly won. 
Dencombe accepted and submitted ; he made neither 
objection nor enquiry, for old complications had 
returned and he had had two dismal days. He was 
convinced not only that he should never again leave 
his bed, so that his young friend might pardonably 
remain, but that the demand he should make on the 
patience of beholders would be of the most moder- 
ate. Doctor Hugh had been to town, and he tried to j 
find in his eyes some confession that the Countess / 
was pacified and his legacy clinched; but all he/ 
could see there was the light of [his juvenile joy in' 
two or three of the phrases of the newspaper. Den- 
combe could n't read them, but when his visitor had 
insisted on repeating them more than once he was 
able to shake an unintqxicated head. "Ah no — 
but they would have been true of what I could have 
done!" 

"What people 'could have done' is mainly what 
they've in fact done," Doctor Hugh contended. 

"Mainly, yes; but I've been an idiot!" Dencombe 
said. 

Doctor Hugh did remain ; the end was coming fast. 
Two days later his patient observed to him, by way 
of the feeblest of jokes, that there would now be no 
question whatever of a second chance. At this the 
young man stared; then he exclaimed: "Why it has \ 
come to pass — it has come to pass! The, second i 
chance lias_b£en_the~public's -— the chance- to-find j 
the point of viea z. -ta-pickjup-the^ear-U " ^ 

"Oh the pearl!" poor Dencombe uneasily sighed. 
A smile as cold as a winter sunset flickered on his 

103 



I 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

drawn lips as he added: "The pearl is the unwritten 
— the pearl is the unalloyed, the rest, the lost ! " 

From that hour he was less and less present, heed- 
less to all appearance of what went on round him. 
His disease was definitely mortal, of an action as 
relentless, after the short arrest that had enabled him 
to fall in with Doctor Hugh, as a leak in a great ship. 
Sinking steadily, though this visitor, a man of rare 
resources, now cordially approved by his physician, 
showed endless art in guarding him from pain, poor 
Dencombe kept no reckoning of favour or neglect, 
betrayed no symptom of regret or speculation. Yet 
toward the last he gave a sign of having noticed how 
for two days Doctor Hugh had n't been in his room, 
a sign that consisted of his suddenly opening his eyes 
to put a question. Had he spent those days with the 
Countess .'' 

"The Countess is dead," said Doctor Hugh. "I 
knew that in a particular contingency she would n't 
resist. I went to her grave." 

Dencombe's eyes opened wider. "She left you 
'something handsome' ?" 

The young man gave a laugh almost too light for 
a chamber of woe. "Never a penny. She roundly 
cursed me." 

"Cursed you ?" Dencombe wailed. 

"For giving her up. I gave her up for you, I had 
to choose," his companion explained. 

"You chose to let a fortune go?" 

"I chose to accept, whatever they might be, the 
consequences of my infatuation," smiled Doctor 
Hugh. Then as a larger pleasantry: "The fortune 

104 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

be hanged ! It 's your own fault if I can't get your 
things out of my head." 

The immediate tribute to his humour was a long 
bewildered moan ; after which, for many hours, many 
days, Dencombe lay motionless and absent. A re- 
sponse so absolute, such a glimpse of a definite result 
and such a sense of credit, worked together in his 
mind and, producing a strange commotion, slowly 
altered and transfigured his despair. The sense of 
cold submersion left him — he seemed to float with- 
out an effort. The incident was extraordinary as 
evidence, and it shed an intenser light. At the last he 
signed to Doctor Hugh to listen and, when he was 
down on his knees by the pillow, brought him very 
near. "You've made me think it all a delusion." 

"Not your glory, my dear friend," stammered the 
young man. 

"Not my glory — what there is of it! It is glory 
— to have been tested, to have had our little quality 
and cast our little spell. The thing is to have made j 
somebody care. You happen to be crazy of course, / 
but that does n't affect the law." 

" You 're a great success ! " said Doctor Hugh, put- ^ 
ting into his young voice the ring of a marriager_* 

bjdL_ 

Dencombe lay taking this in; then he gathered 
strength to speak once more. "A second chance — 
that's the delusion. There never was to be but one. 
We work in the dark — we do what we can — we 
give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and 
our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of J 



art" 



- ""^-^^ ^k .iu^^ 



105 



THE MIDDLE YEARS 

" If you 've doubted, if you 've despaired, you 've 
always 'done' it," his visitor subtly argued. 

"We've done something or other," Dencombe con- 
ceded. 

" Something or other is everything. It 's the feas- 
ible. It's you!" 

"Comforter!" poor Dencombe ironically sighed. 

"But it's true," insisted his friend. 

" It 's true. It 's frustration that does n't count." 

"Frustration's only life," said Doctor Hugh. 

"Yes, it's what passes." Poor Dencombe was 
barely audible, but he had marked with the words 
'the virtual end of his first and only chance. 



GREVILLE FANE 



GREVILLE FANE 

Coming in to dress for dinner I found a telegram: 
"Mrs. Stormer dying; can you give us half a column 
for to-morrow evening ? Let her down easily, but not 
too easily." I was late; I was in a hurry; I had very 
little time to think; but at a venture I dispatched a 
reply: "Will do what I can." It was not till I had 
dressed and was rolling away to dinner that, in the 
hansom, I bethought myself of the difficulty of the 
condition attached. The difficulty was not of course 
in letting her down easily but in qualifying that indulg- 
ence. "So I simply won't qualify it," I said. I didn't 
admire but liked her, and had known her so long 
that I almost felt heartless in sitting down at such an 
hour to a feast of indifference. I must have seemed 
abstracted, for the early years of my acquaintance 
with her came back to me. I spoke of her to the lady 
I had taken down, but the lady I had taken down had 
never heard of Greville Fane. I tried my other neigh- 
bour, who pronounced her books "too vile." I had 
never thought them very good, but I should let her 
down more easily than that. 

I came away early, for the express purpose of 
driving to ask about her. The journey took time, 
for she lived in the northwest district, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Primrose Hill. My apprehension that I 
should be too late was justified in a fuller sense than 
I had attached to it — I had only feared that the 

109 



GREVILLE FANE 

house would be shut up. There were lights in the 
windows, and the temperate tinkle of my bell brought 
a servant immediately to the door; but poor Mrs. 
Stormer had passed into a state in which the reson- 
ance of no earthly knocker was to be feared. A lady 
hovering behind the servant came forward into the 
hall when she heard my voice. I recognised Lady 
Luard, but she had mistaken me for the doctor. 

"Pardon my appearing at such an hour," I said; 
"it was the first possible moment after I heard." 

"It's all over," Lady Luard replied. "Dearest 
mamma!" 

She stood there under the lamp with her eyes on 
me; she was very tall, very stiff, very cold, and always 
looked as if these things, and some others beside, in 
her dress, in her manner and even in her name, were 
an implication that she was very admirable. I had 
never been able to follow the argument, but that 's 
a detail. I expressed briefly and frankly what I- felt, 
while the little mottled maidservant flattened herself 
against the wall of the narrow passage and tried to 
look detached without looking indifferent. It was 
not a moment to make a visit, and I was on the point 
of retreating when Lady Luard arrested me with a 
queer casual drawling "Would you — a — would 
you perhaps be writing something ? " I felt for the 
instant like an infamous interviewer, which I was n't. 
But I pleaded guilty to this intention, on which she 
returned: "I'm so very glad — but I think my 
brother would like to see you." I detested her brother, 
but it was n't an occasion to act this out; so I suffered 
myself to be inducted, to my surprise, into a small 

no 



GREVILLE FANE 

back room which I immediately recognised as the 
scene, during the later years, of Mrs. Stormer's im- 
perturbable industry. Her table was there, the bat- 
tered and blotted accessory to innumerable literary 
lapses, with its contracted space for the arms (she 
wrote only from the elbow down) and the confusion 
of scrappy scribbled sheets which had already be- 
come literary remains. Leolin was also there, smok- 
ing a cigarette before the fire and looking impudent 
even in his grief, sincere as it well might have been. 
To meet him, to greet him, I had to make a sharp 
effort; for the air he wore to me as he stood before 
me was quite that of his mother's murderer. She lay 
silent for ever upstairs — as dead as an unsuccessful 
book, and his swaggering erectness was a kind of 
symbol of his having killed her. I wondered if he 
had already, with his sister, been calculating what 
they could get for the poor papers on the table; but 
I had n't long to wait to learn, since in reply to the 
few words of sympathy I addressed him he puffed 
out: "It's miserable, miserable, yes; but she has left 
three books complete." His words had the oddest 
effect; they converted the cramped little room into 
a seat of trade and made the "book" wonderfully 
feasible. He would certainly get all that could be 
got for the three. Lady Luard explained to me that 
her husband had been with them, but had had to go 
down to the House. To her brother she mentioned 
that I was going to write something, and to me again 
made it clear that she hoped I would "do mamma 
justice." She added that she did n't think this had 
ever been done. She said to her brother : " Don't you 

III 



GREVILLE FANE 

think there are some things he ought thoroughly to 
understand?" and on his instantly exclaiming "Oh 
thoroughly, thoroughly ! " went on rather austerely : 
"I mean about mamma's birth." 

"Yes and her connexions," Leolin added. 

I professed every willingness, and for five minutes 
I listened ; but it would be too much to say I clearly 
understood. I don't even now, but it 's not important. 
My vision was of other matters than those they put 
before me, and while they desired there should be no 
mistake about their ancestors I became keener and 
keener about themselves. I got away as soon as 
possible and walked home through the great dusky 
empty London — the best of all conditions for 
thought. By the time I reached my door my little 
article was practically composed — ready to be trans- 
ferred on the morrow from the polished plate of fancy. 
I believe it attracted some notice, was thought " grace- 
ful" and was said to be by some one else. I had to 
be pointed without being lively, and it took some 
doing. But what I said was much less interesting than 
what I thought — especially during the half-hour I 
spent in my armchair by the fire, smoking the cigar 
I always light before going to bed. I went to sleep 
there, I believe; but I continued to moralise about 
Greville Fane. I'm reluctant to lose that retrospect 
altogether, and this is a dim little memory of it, a 
document not to "serve." The dear woman had 
written a hundred stories, but none so curious as her 
own. 

When first I knew her she had published half 
a dozen fictions, and I believe I had also perpetrated 

112 



GREVILLE FANE 

a novel. She was more than a dozen years my elder, 
but a person who always acknowledged her com- 
parative state. It was n't so very long ago, but in 
London, amid the big waves of the present, even a 
near horizon gets hidden. I met her at some dinner 
and took her down, rather flattered at offering my 
arm to a celebrity. She did n't look like one, with her 
matronly mild inanimate face, but I supposed her 
greatness would come out in her conversation. I gave 
it all the opportunities I could, but was nevertheless 
not disappointed when I found her only a dull kind 
woman. This was why I liked her — she rested me 
so from literature. To myself literature was an irri- 
tation, a torment; but Greville Fane slumbered in 
the intellectual part of it even as a cat on a hearth- 
rug or a Creole in a hammock. She was n't a woman 
of genius, but her faculty was so special, so much 
a gift out of hand, that I 've often wondered why 
she fell below that distinction. This was doubtless 
because the transaction, in her case, had remained 
incomplete; genius always pays for the gift, feels the 
debt, and she was placidly unconscious of a call. 
She could invent stories by the yard, but could n't 
write a page of English. She went down to her grave 
without suspecting that though she had contributed 
volumes to the diversion of her contemporaries she 
had n't contributed a sentence to the language. This 
had n't prevented bushels of criticism from being 
heaped on her head; she was worth a couple of 
columns any day to the weekly papers, in which it 
was shown that her pictures of life were dreadful but 
her style superior. She asked me to come and see 

"3 



GREVILLE FANE 

her and I complied. She lived then in Montpellier 
Square; which helped me to see how dissociated her 
imagination was from her character. 

An industrious widow, devoted to her daily stint, 
to meeting the butcher and baker and making a 
home for her son and daughter, from the moment 
she took her pen in her hand she became a creature 
of passion. She thought the English novel deplorably 
wanting in that element, and the task she had cut 
out for herself was to supply the deficiency. Passion 
in high life was the general formula of this work, for 
her imagination was at home only in the most exalted 
circles. She adored in truth the aristocracy, and they 
constituted for her the romance of the world or, what 
is more to the point, the prime material of fiction. 
Their beauty and luxury, their loves and revenges, 
their temptations and surrenders, their immoralities 
and diamonds were as familiar to her as the blots on 
her writing-table. She was not a belated producer 
of the old fashionable novel, but, with a cleverness 
and a modernness of her own, had freshened up the 
fly-blown tinsel. She turned off plots by the hun- 
dred and — so far as her flying quill could convey 
her — was perpetually going abroad. Her types, her 
illustrations, her tone were nothing if not cosmo- 
politan. She recognised nothing less provincial than 
European society, and her fine folk knew each other 
and made love to each other from Doncaster to 
Bucharest. She had an idea that she resembled 
Balzac, and her favourite historical characters were 
Lucien de Rubempre and the Vidame de Pamiers. 
I must add that when I once asked her who the latter 

114 



GREVILLE FANE 

personage was she was unable to tell me. She was 
very brave and healthy and cheerful, very abundant 
and innocent and wicked. She was expert and vulgar 
and snobbish, and never so intensely British as when 
she was particularly foreign. 

This combination of qualities had brought her 
early success, and I remember having heard with 
wonder and envy of what she "got," in those days, 
for a novel. The revelation gave me a pang : it was 
such a proof that, practising a totally different style, 
I should never make my fortune. And yet when, as 
I knew her better she told me her real tariff and I 
saw how rumour had quadrupled it, I liked her 
enough to be sorry. After a while I discovered too 
that if she got less it was not that / was to get any 
more. My failure never had what Mrs. Stormer 
would have called the banality of being relative — it 
was always admirably absolute. She lived at ease 
however in those days — ease is exactly the word, 
though she produced three novels a year. She scorned 
me when I spoke of difficulty — it was the only thing 
that made her angry. If I hinted at the grand licking 
into shape that a work of art required she thought it 
a pretension and a pose. She never recognised the 
"torment of form"; the furthest she went was to 
introduce into one of her books (in satire her hand 
was heavy) a young poet who was always talking 
about it. I could n't quite understand her irritation 
on this score, for she had nothing at stake in the 
matter. She had a shrewd perception that form, in 
prose at least, never recommended any one to the 
public we were condemned to address; according to 

"5 



GREVILLE FANE 

which she lost nothing (her private humiliation not 
counted) by having none to shovp. She made no pre- 
tence of producing works of art, but had comfortable 
tea-drinking hours in which she freely confessed her- 
self a common pastrycook, dealing in such tarts and 
puddings as would bring customers to the shop. She 
put in plenty of sugar and of cochineal, or whatever 
it is that gives these articles a rich and attractive 
colour. She had a calm independence of observation 
and opportunity which constituted an inexpugnable 
strength and would enable her to go on indefinitely. 
It's only real success that wanes, it's only solid things 
that melt. Greville Fane's ignorance of life was a 
resource still more unfailing than the most approved 
receipt. On her saying once that the day would come 
when she should have written herself out I answered : 
"Ah you open straight into fairyland, and the fairies 
love you and they never change. Fairyland 's always 
there; it always was from the beginning of time and 
always will be to the end. They've given you the 
key and you can always open the door. With me it 's 
different; I try, in my clumsy way, to be in some 
direct relation to Hfe." "Oh bother your direct rela- 
tion to life ! " she used to reply, for she was always 
annoyed by the phrase — which would n't in the least 
prevent her using it as a note of elegance. With no 
more prejudices than an old sausage-mill, she would 
give forth again with patient punctuality any poor 
verbal scrap that had been dropped into her. I 
cheered her with saying that the dark day, at the end, 
would be for the * likes * of me; since, proceeding in our 
small way by experience and study — priggish we ! — 

u6 



GREVILLE FANE 

we depended not on a revelation but on a little tire- 
some process. Attention depended on occasion, and 
where should we be when occasion failed ? 

One day she told me that as the novelist's life was 
so delightful and, during the good years at least, such 
a comfortable support — she had these staggering 
optimisms — she meant to train up her boy to follow 
it. She took the ingenious view that it was a profession 
like another and that therefore everything was to be 
gained by beginning young and serving an appren- 
ticeship. Moreover the education would be less ex- 
pensive than any other special course, inasmuch as 
she could herself administer it. She did n't profess 
to keep a school, but she could at least teach her own 
child. It was n't that she had such a gift, but — she 
confessed to me as if she were afraid I should laugh 
at her — that he had. I did n't laugh at her for that, 
because I thought the boy sharp — I had seen him 
sundry times. He was well-grown and good-looking 
and unabashed, and both he and his sister made me 
wonder about their defunct papa, concerning whom 
the little I knew was that he had been a country vicar 
and brother to a small squire. I explained them to 
myself by suppositions and imputations possibly un- 
just to the departed ; so little were they — superficially 
at least — the children of their mother. There used 
to be on an easel in her drawing-room an enlarged 
photograph of her husband, done by some horrible 
posthumous "process" and draped, as to its florid 
frame, with a silken scarf which testifiied to the can- 
dour of Greville Fane's bad taste. It made him look 
like an unsuccessful tragedian, but it was n't a thing 

117 



GREVILLE FANE 

to trust. He may have been a successful comedian. 
Of the two children the girl was the elder, and struck 
me in all her younger years as singularly colourless. 
She was only long, very long, like an undecipherable 
letter .| It was n't till Mrs. Stormer came back from 
a protracted residence abroad that Ethel (which was 
this young lady's name) began to produce the effect, 
large and stiff and afterwards eminent in her, of 
a certain kind of resolution, something as public and 
important as if a meeting and a chairman had passed 
it. She gave one to understand she meant to do 
all she could for herself. She was long-necked and 
near-sighted and striking, and I thought I had never 
seen sweet seventeen in a form so hard and high and 
dry. She was cold and affected and ambitious, and 
she carried an eyeglass with a long handle, which she 
put up whenever she wanted not to see. She had 
come out, as the phrase is, immensely; and yet I felt 
as if she were surrounded with a spiked iron railing. 
What she meant to do for herself was to marry, and 
it was the only thing, I think, that she meant to do for 
any one else; yet who would be inspired to clamber 
over that bristling barrier ? What flower of tenderness 
or of intimacy would such an adventurer conceive as 
his reward ? 

This was for Sir Baldwin Luard to say; but he 
naturally never confided me the secret. He was a 
joyless jokeless young man, with the air of having 
other secrets as well, and a determination to get on 
politically that was indicated by his never having been 
known to commit himself — as regards any propo- 
sition whatever — beyond an unchallengeable "Oh!" 

ii8 



GREVILLE FANE 

His wife and he must have conversed mainly in prim 
ejaculations, but they understood sufficiently that 
they were kindred spirits. I remember being angry 
with Greville Fane when she announced these nup- 
tials to me as magnificent; I remember asking her 
what splendour there was in the union of the daughter 
of a woman of genius with an irredeemable medioc- 
rity. "Oh he has immense ability," she said; but she 
blushed for the maternal fib. What she meant was 
that though Sir Baldwin's estates were not vast — he 
had a dreary house in South Kensington and a still 
drearier "Hall" somewhere in Essex, which was let 
— the connexion was a "smarter" one than a child 
of hers could have aspired to form. In spite of the 
social bravery of her novels she took a very humble 
and dingy view of herself, so that of all her produc- 
tions "my daughter Lady Luard" was quite the one 
she was proudest of. That personage thought our 
authoress vulgar and was distressed and perplexed 
by the frequent freedoms of her pen, but had a 
complicated attitude for this indirect connexion with 
Hterature. So far as it was lucrative her ladyship 
approved of it and could compound with the inferi- 
ority of the pursuit by practical justice to some of its 
advantages. I had reason to know — my reason was 
simply that poor Mrs. Stormer told me — how she 
suffered the inky fingers to press an occasional bank- 
note into her palm. On the other hand she deplored 
the "peculiar style" to which Greville Fane had de- 
voted herself, and wondered where a spectator with 
the advantage of so ladylike a daughter could have 
picked up such views about the best society. "She 

119 



GREVILLE FANE 

might know better, with Leolin and me," Lady Luard 
had been heard to remark; but it appeared that some 
of Greville Fane's superstitions were incurable. She 
didn't live in Lady Luard's society, and the best 
was n't good enough for her — she must improve on 
it so prodigiously. 

I could see this necessity increase in her during 
the years she spent abroad, when I had glimpses of 
her in the shifting sojourns that lay in the path of my 
annual ramble. She betook herself from Germany 
to Switzerland and from Switzerland to Italy; she 
favoured cheap places and set up her desk in the 
smaller capitals. I took a look at her whenever I 
could, and I always asked how Leolin was getting 
on. She gave me beautiful accounts of him, and, 
occasion favouring, the boy was produced for my 
advantage. I had entered from the first into the joke 
of his career — I pretended to regard him as a conse- 
crated child. It had been a joke for Mrs. Stormer at 
first, but the youth himself had been shrewd enough 
to make the matter serious. If his parent accepted 
the principle that the intending novelist can't begin 
too early to see life, Leolin was n't interested in hang- 
ing back from the application of it. He was eager 
to qualify himself and took to cigarettes at ten on the 
highest literary grounds. His fond mother gazed at 
him with extravagant envy and, like Desdemona, 
wished heaven had made her such a man. She ex- 
plained to me more than once that in her profession 
she had found her sex a dreadful drawback. She 
loved the story of Madame George Sand's early rebel- 
lion against this hindrance, and believed that if she 

120 



GREVILLE FANE 

had worn trousers she could have written as well as 
that lady. Leolin had for the career at least the 
qualification of trousers, and as he grew older he 
recognised its importance by laying in ever so many 
pair. He grew up thus in gorgeous apparel, which 
was his way of interpreting his mother's system. 
Whenever I met her, accordingly, I found her still 
under the impression that she was carrying this system 
out and that the sacrifices made him were bearing 
heavy fruit. She was giving him experience, she was 
giving him impressions, she was putting a gagne-pain 
into his hand. It was another name for spoiling him 
with the best conscience in the world. The queerest 
pictures come back to me of this period of the good 
lady's life and of the extraordinarily virtuous muddled 
bewildering tenor of it. She had an idea she was 
seeing foreign manners as well as her petticoats 
would allow; but in reality she was n't seeing any- 
thing, least of all, fortunately, how much she was 
laughed at. She drove her whimsical pen at Dresden 
and at Florence — she produced in all places and at 
all times the same romantic and ridiculous fictions. 
She carried about her box of properties, tumbling 
out promptly the familiar tarnished old puppets. She 
believed in them when others could n't, and as they 
were like nothing that was to be seen under the sun 
it was impossible to prove by comparison that they 
were wrong. You can't compare birds and fishes; you 
could only feel that, as Greville Fane's characters 
had the fine plumage of the former species, human 
beings must be of the latter. 

It would have been droll if it had n't been so 

121 



GREVILLE FANE 

exemplary to see her tracing the loves of the duch- 
esses beside the innocent cribs of her children. The 
immoral and the maternal Hved together, in her dilig- 
ent days, on the most comfortable terms, and she 
stopped curling the moustaches of her Guardsmen to 
pat the heads of her babes. She was haunted by 
solemn spinsters who came to tea from Continental 
pensions, and by unsophisticated Americans who told 
her she was just loved in their country. "I had 
rather be just paid there," she usually replied; for 
this tribute of transatlantic opinion was the only 
thing that galled her. The Americans went away 
thinking her coarse; though as the author of so 
many beautiful love-stories she was disappointing to 
most of these pilgrims, who had n't expected to find 
a shy stout ruddy lady in a cap like a crumbled pyra- 
mid. She wrote about the affections and the impossi- 
bility of controlling them, but she talked of the price 
of pension and the convenience of an English chemist. 
She devoted much thought and many thousands of 
francs to the education of her daughter, who spent 
three years at a very superior school at Dresden, 
receiving wonderful instruction in sciences, arts and 
tongues, and who, taking a different line from Leolin, 
was to be brought up wholly as a femme du monde. 
The girl was musical and philological; she went in 
for several languages and learned enough about 
them to be inspired with a great contempt for her 
mother's artless accents. Greville Fane's French 
and Italian were droll; the imitative faculty had been 
denied her, and she had an unequalled gift, especially 
pen in hand, of squeezing big mistakes into small 

122 



GREVILLE FANE 

opportunities. She knew it but did n't care; correct- 
ness was the virtue in the world that, like her heroes 
and heroines, she valued least. Ethel, who had noted 
in her pages some remarkable lapses, undertook at 
one time to revise her proofs; but I remember her 
telling me a year after the girl had left school that this 
function had been very briefly exercised. "She can't 
read me," said Mrs. Stormer ; " I offend her taste. She 
tells me that at Dresden — at school — I was never 
allowed." The good lady seemed surprised at this, 
having the best conscience in the world about hei 
lucubrations. She had never meant to fly in the face 
of anything, and considered that she grovelled before 
the Rhadamanthus of the English literary tribunal, 
the celebrated and awful Young Person. I assured 
her, as a joke, that she was frightfully indecent — 
she had in fact that element of truth as little as any 
other — my purpose being solely to prevent her guess- 
ing that her daughter had dropped her not because 
she was immoral but because she was vulgar. I used 
to figure her children closeted together and putting 
it to each other with a gaze of dismay : " Why should 
she he so — and so fearfully so — when she has the 
advantage of our society .? Should n't we have taught 
her better ? " Then I imagined their recognising 
with a blush and a shrug that she was unteachable, 
irreformable. Indeed she was, poor lady, but it's 
never fair to read by the light of taste things essen- 
tially not written in it. Greville Fane kept through 
all her riot of absurdity a witless confidence that 
should have been as safe from criticism as a stutter 
or a squint. 

123 



GREVILLE FANE 

She did n't make her son ashamed of the profession 
to which he was destined, however; she only made 
him ashamed of the way she herself exercised it. 
But he bore his humihation much better than his 
sister, being ready to assume he should one day 
restore the balance. A canny and far-seeing youth, 
with appetites and aspirations, he had n't a scruple 
in his composition. His mother's theory of the happy 
knack he could pick up deprived him of the whole- 
some discipline required to prevent young idlers 
from becoming cads. He enjoyed on foreign soil a 
casual tutor and the common snatch or two of a Swiss 
school, but addressed himself to no consecutive study 
nor to any prospect of a university or a degree. It 
may be imagined with what zeal, as the years went on, 
he entered into the pleasantry of there being no man- 
ual so important to him as the massive book of life. 
It was an expensive volume to peruse, but Mrs. 
Stormer was willing to lay out a sum in what she 
would have called her premiers frais. Ethel disap- 
proved — she found this education irregular for an 
English gentleman. Her voice was for Eton and 
Oxford or for any public school — she would have re- 
signed herself to one of the scrubbier — with the army 
to follow. But Leolin never was afraid of his sister, 
and they visibly disliked, though they sometimes 
agreed to assist, each other. They could combine to 
work the oracle — to keep their mother at her desk. 

When she reappeared in England, telling me she 
had "secured" all the Continent could give her, 
Leolin was a broad-shouldered red-faced young man 
with an immense wardrobe and an extraordinary 

124 



GREVILLE FANE 

assurance of manner. She was fondly, quite aggress- 
ively certain she had taken the right course with 
him, and addicted to boasting of all he knew and had 
seen. He was now quite ready to embark on the 
family profession, to commence author, as they used 
to say, and a little while later she told me he had 
started. He had written something tremendously 
clever which was coming out in the Cheapside. I 
believe it came out; I had no time to look for it; I 
never heard anything about it. I took for granted that 
if this contribution had passed through his mother's 
hands it would virtually rather illustrate her fine 
facility, and it was interesting to consider the poor 
lady's future in the light of her having to write her 
son's novels as well as her own. This was n't the 
way she looked at it herself — she took the charming 
ground that he 'd help her to write hers. She used 
to assure me he supplied passages of the greatest 
value to these last — all sorts of telling technical 
things, happy touches about hunting and yachting 
and cigars and wine, about City slang and the way 
men talk at clubs — that she could n't be expected 
to get very straight. It was all so much practice for 
him and so much alleviation for herself. I was unable 
to identify such pages, for I had long since ceased to 
"keep up" with Greville Fane; but I could quite be- 
lieve at least that the wine-question had been put by 
Leolin's good offices on a better footing, for the dear 
woman used to mix her drinks — she was perpetually 
serving the most splendid suppers — in the queerest 
fashion. I could see him quite ripe to embrace regu- 
larly that care. It occurred to me indeed, when she 

125 



GREVILLE FANE 

settled in England again, that she might by a shrewd 
use of both her children be able to rejuvenate her 
style. Ethel had come back to wreak her native, her 
social yearning, and if she could n't take her mother 
into company would at least go into it herself. Si- 
lently, stiffly, almost grimly, this young lady reared 
her head, clenched her long teeth, squared her lean 
elbows and found her way up the staircases she had 
marked. The only communication she ever made, 
the only effusion of confidence with which she ever 
honoured me, was when she said "I don't want to 
know the people mamma knows, I mean to know 
others." I took due note of the remark, for I was n't 
one of the "others." I could n't trace therefore the 
steps and stages of her climb ; I could only admire 
it at a distance and congratulate her mother in due 
course on the results. The results, the gradual, the 
final, the wonderful, were that Ethel went to "big" 
parties and got people to take her. Some of them were 
people she had met abroad, and others people the 
people she had met abroad had met. They ministered 
alike to Miss Ethel's convenience, and I wondered 
how she extracted so many favours without the ex- 
penditure of a smile. Her smile was the dimmest 
thing in nature, diluted, unsweetened, inexpensive 
lemonade, and she had arrived precociously at 
social wisdom, recognising that if she was neither 
pretty enough nor rich enough nor clever enough, 
she could at least, in her muscular youth, be rude 
enough. Therefore, so placed to give her parent tips, 
to let her know what really occurred in the mansions 
of the great, to supply her with local colour, with 

126 



GREVILLE FANE 

data to work from, she promoted the driving of the 
well-worn quill, over the brave old battered blot- 
ting book, to a still lustier measure and precisely 
at the moment when most was to depend on this 
labour. But if she became a great critic it appeared 
that the labourer herself was constitutionally inapt 
for the lesson. It was late in the day for Greville 
Fane to learn, and I heard nothing of her having 
developed a new manner. She was to have had only 
one manner, as Leolin would have said, from start 
to finish. 

She was weary and spent at last, but confided to 
me that she could n't afford to pause. She continued 
to speak of her son's work as the great hope of their 
future — she had saved no money — though the 
young man wore to my sense an air more and more 
professional if you like, but less and less literary. 
There was at the end of a couple of years something 
rare in the impudence of his playing of his part in 
the comedy. When I wondered how she could play 
hers it was to feel afresh the fatuity of her fondness, 
which was proof, I believed — I indeed saw to the end 
— against any interference of reason. She loved the 
young impostor with a simple blind benighted love, 
and of all the heroes of romance who had passed be- 
fore her eyes he was by far the brightest. He was at 
any rate the most real — she could touch him, pay 
for him, suffer for him, worship him. He made her 
think of her princes and dukes, and when she wished 
to fix these figures in her mind's eye she thought of 
her boy. She had often told me she was herself carried 
away by her creations, and she was certainly carried 

127 



GREVILLE FANE 

away by Leolin. He vivified — by what romantically 
might have been at least — the whole question of 
youth and passion. She held, not unjustly, that the 
sincere novelist should feel the whole flood of life; 
she acknowledged with regret that she had n't had 
time to feel it herself, and the lapse in her history was 
in a manner made up by the sight of its rush through 
this magnificent young man. She exhorted him, I 
suppose, to encourage the rush; she wrung her own 
flaccid little sponge into the torrent. What passed 
between them in her pedagogic hours was naturally a 
blank to me, but I gathered that she mainly impressed 
on him that the great thing was to live, because that 
gave you material. He asked nothing better; he 
collected material, and the recipe served as a uni- 
versal pretext. You had only to look at him to see 
that, with his rings and breastpins, his cross-barred 
jackets, his early embonpoint, his eyes that looked 
like imitation jewels, his various indications of a 
dense full-blown temperament, his idea of life was 
singularly vulgar; but he was so far auspicious as 
that his response to his mother's expectations was 
in a high degree practical. If she had imposed a 
profession on him from his tenderest years it was 
exactly a profession that he followed. The two were 
not quite the same, inasmuch as the one he had 
adopted was simply to live at her expense ; but at least 
she could n't say he had n't taken a line. If she in- 
sisted on believing in him he offered himself to the 
sacrifice. My impression is that her secret dream 
was that he should have a liaison with a countess, 
and he persuaded her without difficulty that he had 

128 



GREVILLE FANE 

one. I don't know what countesses are capable of, 
but I 've a clear notion of what Leolin was. 

He did n't persuade his sister, who despised him — 
she wished to work her mother in her own way; so 
that I asked myself why the girl's judgement of him 
did n't make me like her better. It was because it 
did n't save her after all from the mute agreement with 
him to go halves. There were moments when I 
could n't help looking hard into his atrocious young 
eyes, challenging him to confess his fantastic fraud 
and give it up. Not a little tacit conversation passed 
between us in this way, but he had always the best 
of the business. If I said: "Oh come now, with me 
you need n't keep it up ; plead guilty and I '11 let you 
off," he wore the most ingenuous, the most candid 
expression, in the depths of which I could read: 
"Ah yes, I know it exasperates you — that's just 
why I do it." He took the line of earnest enquiry, 
talked about Balzac and Flaubert, asked me if 
I thought Dickens did exaggerate and Thackeray 
ought to be called a pessimist. Once he came to see 
me, at his mother's suggestion he declared, on pur- 
pose to ask me how far, in my opinion, in the English 
novel, one really might venture to "go." He was n't 
resigned to the usual pruderies, the worship of child- 
ish twaddle; he suffered already from too much 
bread and butter. He struck out the brilliant idea 
that nobody knew how far we might go, since no- 
body had ever tried. Did I think he might safely 
try — would it injure his mother if he did ? He 
would rather disgrace himslf by his timidities than 
injure his mother, but certainly some one ought to 

129 



GREVILLE FANE 

try. Would n't T try — could n't I be prevailed upon 
to look at it as a duty? Surely the ultimate point 
ought to be fixed — he was worried, haunted by the 
question. He patronised me unblushingly, made me 
feel a foolish amateur, a helpless novice, enquired 
into my habits of work and conveyed to me that I 
was utterly vieux jeu and had n't had the advantage 
of an early training. I had n't been brought up from 
the egg, I knew nothing of life — did n't go at it on 
his system. He had dipped into French feuilletons 
and picked up plenty of phrases, and he made a 
much better show in talk than his poor mother, who 
never had time to read anything and could only be 
showy with her pen. If I did n't kick him down- 
stairs it was because he would have landed on her at 
the bottom. 

When she went to live at Primrose Hill I called 
there and found her wasted and wan. It had visibly 
dropped, the elation caused the year before by Ethel's 
marriage; the foam on the cup had subsided and there 
was bitterness in the draught. She had had to take 
a cheaper house — and now had to work still harder 
to pay even for that. Sir Baldwin was obliged to be 
close; his charges were fearful, and the dream of her 
living with her daughter — a vision she had never 
mentioned to me — must be renounced. "I'd have 
helped them with things, and could have lived per- 
fectly in one room," she said ; " I 'd have paid for 
everything, and — after all — I 'm some one, ain't I ? 
But I don't fit in, and Ethel tells me there are tire- 
some people she must receive. I can help them from 
here, no doubt, better than from there. She told me 

130 



GREVILLE FANE 

once, you know, what she thinks of my picture of life. 
'Mamma, your picture of life's preposterous!' No 
doubt it is, but she's vexed with me for letting my 
prices go down; and I had to write three novels to 
pay for all her marriage cost me. I did it very well 
— I mean the outfit and the wedding; but that's 
why I 'm here. At any rate she does n't want a 
dingy old woman at Blicket. I should give the 
place an atmosphere of literary prestige, but literary 
prestige is only the eminence of nobodies. Besides, 
she knows what to think of my glory — she knows 
I 'm glorious only at Peckham and Hackney. She 
does n't want her friends to ask if I *ve never known 
nice people. She can't tell them I've never been in 
society. She tried to teach me better once, but I 
could n't catch on. It would seem too as if Peckham 
and Hackney had had enough of me; for (don't tell 
any one !) I 've had to take less for my last than I ever 
took for anything." I asked her how little this had 
been, not from curiosity, but in order to upbraid her, 
more disinterestedly than Lady Luard had done, for 
such concessions. She answered " I 'm ashamed to tell 
you" and then began to cry. 

I had never seen her break down and I was pro- 
portionately moved; she sobbed like a frightened 
child over the extinction of her vogue and the exhaus- 
tion of her vein. Her little workroom seemed indeed 
a barren place to grow flowers for the market, and 
I wondered in the after years (for she continued to 
produce and publish) by what desperate and heroic 
process she dragged them out of the soil. I remember 
asking her on that occasion what had become of 

131 



GREVILLE FANE 

Leolm and how much longer she intended to allow 
him to amuse himself at her cost. She retorted with 
spirit, wiping her eyes, that he was down at Brighton 
hard at work — he was in the midst of a novel — and 
that he felt life so, in all its misery and mystery, that 
it was cruel to speak of such experiences as a pleasure. 
"He goes beneath the surface," she said, "and he 
forces himself to look at things from which he 'd rather 
turn away. Do you call that amusing yourself ? You 
should see his face sometimes! And he does it for 
me as much as for himself. He tells me everything 
— he comes home to me with his trouvailles. We 're 
artists together, and to the artist all things are pure. 
I've often heard you say so yourself." The novel 
Leolin was engaged in at Brighton never saw the 
light, but a friend of mine and of Mrs. Stormer's who 
was staying there happened to mention to me later 
that he had seen the young apprentice to fiction driv- 
ing, in a dog-cart, a young lady with a very pink face. 
When I suggested that she was perhaps a woman of 
title with whom he was conscientiously flirting my 
informant replied: "She is indeed, but do you know 
what her title is ? " He pronounced it — it was 
familiar and descriptive — but I won't reproduce it 
here. I don't know whether Leolin mentioned it to 
his mother : she would have needed all the purity of 
the artist to forgive him. I hated so to come across 
him that in the very last years I went rarely to see 
her, though I knew she had come pretty well to the 
end of her rope. I did n't want her to tell me she had 
fairly to give her books away; I did n't want to see 
her old and abandoned and derided ; I did n't want, 

132 



' GREVILLE FANE 

in a word, to see her terribly cry. She still, however, 
kept it up amazingly, and every few months, at my 
club, I saw three new volumes, in green, in crimson, 
in blue, on the book-table that groaned with light 
literature. Once I met her at the Academy soiree, 
where you meet people you thought were dead, and 
she vouchsafed the information, as if she owed it to 
me in candour, that Leolin had been obliged to re- 
cognise the insuperable difficulties of the question of 
form — he was so fastidious; but that she had now 
arrived at a definite understanding with him (it was 
such a comfort!) that she would do the form if he 
would bring horpe the substance. That was now his 
employ — he foraged for her in the great world at a 
salary. "He's my 'devil,' don't you see ? as if I were 
a great lawyer: he gets up the case and I argue it." 
She mentioned further that in addition to his salary 
he was paid by the piece : he got so much for a striking 
character, so much for a pretty name, so much for a 
plot, so much for an incident, and had so much pro- 
mised him if he would invent a new crime. 

"He has invented one," I said, "and he's paid 
every day of his life." 

"What is it?" she asked, looking hard at the 
picture of the year, "Baby's Tub," near which we 
happened to be standing. 

I hesitated a moment. " I myself will write a little 
story about it, and then you'll see." 

But she never saw; she had never seen anything, 
and she passed away with her fine blindness unim- 
paired. Her son published every scrap of scribbled 
paper that could be extracted from her table-drawers, 

133 



GREVILLE FANE 

and his sister quarrelled with him mortally about the 
proceeds, which showed her only to have wanted a 
pretext, for they can't have been great. I don't know 
what Leolin lives on unless on a queer lady many 
years older than himself, whom he lately married. 
The last time I met him he said to me with his infuri- 
ating smile: "Don't you think we can go a little 
further still — just a little ? " He really — with me 
at least — goes too far. 



BROKEN WINGS 



BROKEN WINGS 
I 

Conscious as he was of what was between them, 
though perhaps less conscious than ever of why there 
should at that time of day be anything, he would yet 
scarce have supposed they could be so long in a house 
together without some word or some look. It had 
been since the Saturday afternoon, and that made 
twenty-four hours. The party — five-and-thirty peo- 
ple and some of them great — was one in which words 
and looks might more or less have gone astray. The 
effect, none the less, he judged, would have been, for 
her quite as for himself, that no sound and no sign 
from the other had been picked up by either. They 
had happened both at dinner and at luncheon to be 
so placed as not to have to glare — or to grin — 
across; and for the rest they could each, in such a 
crowd, as freely help the general ease to keep them 
apart as assist it to bring them together. One chance 
there was, of course, that might be beyond their con- 
trol. He had been the night before half-surprised at 
not finding her his "fate" when the long procession 
to the dining-room solemnly hooked itself together. 
He would have said in advance — recognising it as 
one of the sharp "notes" of Mundham — that, 
should the gathering contain a literary lady, the liter- 
ary lady would, for congruity, be apportioned to the 

137 J 



BROKEN WINGS 

arm, when there was a question of arms, of the gentle- 
man present who represented the nearest thing to 
literature. Poor Straith represented "art," and that, 
no doubt, would have been near enough had not the 
party offered for choice a slight excess of men. The 
representative of art had been of the two or three who 
went in alone, whereas Mrs. Harvey had gone in with 
one of the representatives of banking. 

It was certain, however, that she would n't again 
be consigned to Lord Belgrove, and it was just pos- 
sible that he himself should not be again alone. She 
would be on the whole the most probable remedy to 
that state, on his part, of disgrace ; and this precisely 
was the great interest of their situation — they were 
the only persons present without some advantage over 
somebody else. They had n't a single advantage; they 
could be named for nothing but their cleverness ; they 
were at the bottom of the social ladder. The social 
ladder had even at Mundham — as they might pro- 
perly have been told, as indeed practically they were 
told — to end somewhere ; which is no more than to 
say that as he strolled about and thought of many 
things Stuart Straith had after all a good deal the 
sense of helping to hold it up. Another of the things 
he thought of was the special oddity — for it was no- 
thing else — of his being there at all, being there in 
particular so out of his order and turn. He could n't 
answer for Mrs. Harvey's turn and order. It might 
well be that she was in hers; but these Saturday-to- 
Monday occasions had hitherto mostly struck him 
as great gilded cages as to which care was taken that 
the birds should be birds of a feather. 

138 



BROKEN WINGS 

There had been a wonderful walk in the afternoon, 
within the limits of the place, to a far-away tea-house; 
and in spite of the combinations and changes of this 
episode he had still escaped the necessity of putting 
either his old friend or himself to the test. Also it had 
been all, he flattered himself, without the pusillan- 
imity of his avoiding her. Life was indeed well under- 
stood in these great conditions; the conditions con- 
stituted in their greatness a kind of fundamental 
facility, provided a general exemption, bathed the 
hour, whatever it was, in a universal blandness, that 
were all a happy solvent for awkward relations. It 
was for instance beautiful that if their failure to meet 
amid so much meeting had been of Mrs. Harvey's 
own contrivance he could n't be in the least vulgarly 
sure of it. There were places in which he would have 
had no doubt, places different enough from Mund- 
ham. He felt all the same and without anguish that 
these were much more his places — even if she did n't 
feel that they were much more hers. The day had been 
warm and splendid, and this moment of its wane 
— with dinner in sight, but as across a field of pol- 
ished pink marble which seemed to say that wherever 
in such a house there was space there was also, be- 
nignantly, time — formed, of the whole procession of 
the hours, the one dearest to our friend, who on such 
occasions interposed it, whenever he could, between 
the set of impressions that ended and the set that 
began with "dressing." The great terraces and gar- 
dens were almost void ; people had scattered, though 
not altogether even yet to dress. The air of the place, 
with the immense house all seated aloft in strength, 

139 



BROKEN WINGS 

robed with summer and crowned with success, was 
such as to contribute something of its own to the 
poetry of early evening. This visitor at any rate 
saw and felt it all through one of those fine hazes of 
August that remind you — at least they reminded 
him — of the artful gauze stretched across the stage 
of a theatre when an effect of mystery or some par- 
ticular pantomimic ravishment is desired. 

Should he in fact have to pair with Mrs. Harvey 
for dinner it would be a shame to him not to have 
addressed her sooner; and should she on the contrary 
be put with some one else the loss of so much of the 
time would have but the greater ugliness. Did n't he 
meanwhile make out that there were ladies in the 
lower garden, from which the sound of voices, faint 
but, as always in the upper air of Mundham, exceed- 
ingly sweet, was just now borne to him ? She might 
be among them, and if he should find her he 'd let her 
know he had sought her. He 'd treat it frankly as an 
occasion for declaring that what had happened be- 
tween them — or rather what had not happened — 
was too absurd. What at present occurred, however, 
was that in his quest of her he suddenly, at the turn 
of an alley, perceived her, not far off, seated in a sort 
of bower with the Ambassador. With this he pulled 
up, going another way and pretending not to see them. 
Three times already that afternoon he had observed 
her in different situations with the Ambassador. He 
was the more struck accordingly when, upwards of 
an hour later, again alone and with his state unreme- 
died, he saw her placed for dinner next his Excel- 
lency. It wasn't at all what would have been at 

140 



BROKEN WINGS 

Mundham her right seat, so that it could only be 
explained by his Excellency's direct request. She 
was a success ! This time Straith was well in her view 
and could see that in the candle-light of the wonderful 
room, where the lustres were, like the table, all crystal 
and silver, she was as handsome as any one, taking 
the women of her age, and also as "smart" as the 
evening before, and as true as any of the others to the 
law of a marked difference in her smartness. If the 
beautiful way she held herself — for decidedly it was 
beautiful — came in a great measure from the good 
thing she professionally made of it all, our observer 
could reflect that the poor thing he professionally 
made of it probably affected his attitude in just the 
opposite way; but they communicated neither in the 
glare nor in the grin he had dreaded. Still, their eyes 
did now meet, and then it struck him her own were 
strange. 



II 



She, on her side, had her private consciousness, and 
quite as full a one, doubtless, as he, but with the ad- 
vantage that when the company separated for the 
night she was not, like her friend, reduced to a vigil 
unalloyed. Lady Claude, at the top of the stairs, had 
said "May I look in — in five minutes — if you don't 
mind ? " and then had arrived in due course and in 
a wonderful new Jjeribboned gown, the thing just 
launched for such occasions. Lady Claude was young 
and earnest and delightfully bewildered and bewilder- 
ing, and however interesting she might, through cer- 
tain elements in her situation, have seemed to a liter- 
ary lady, her own admirations and curiosities were 
such as from the first promised to rule the hour. She 
had already expressed to Mrs. Harvey a really in- 
formed enthusiasm. She not only delighted in her 
numerous books, which was a tribute the author had 
not infrequently met, but she even appeared to have 
read them — an appearance with which our author- 
ess was much less acquainted. The great thing was 
that she also yearned to write, and that she had 
turned up in her fresh furbelows not only to reveal 
this secret and to ask for direction and comfort, but 
literally to make a stranger confidence, for which the 
mystery of midnight seemed propitious. Midnight 
was indeed, as the situation developed, well over 
before her confidence was spent, for it had ended by 

142 



BROKEN WINGS 

gathering such a current as floated forth, with every- 
thing in Lady Claude's own Hfe, many things more 
in that of her adviser. Mrs. Harvey was at all events 
amused, touched and effectually kept awake; so by 
the end of half an hour they had quite got what might 
have been called their second wind of frankness and 
were using it for a discussion of the people in the 
house. Their primary communion had been simply 
on the question of the pecuniary profits of literature 
as the producer of so many admired volumes was 
prepared to present them to an aspirant. Lady Claude 
was in financial difficulties and desired the literary 
issue. This was the breathless revelation she had 
rustled over a mile of crimson velvet corridor to make. 

"Nothing?" she had three minutes later incred- 
ulously gasped. " I can make nothing at all ? " But 
the gasp was slight compared with the stupefaction 
communicated by a brief further parley, in the course 
of which Mrs. Harvey had, after an hesitation, taken 
her own plunge. " Tou make so little — wonderful 
you?" And then as the producer of the admired vol- 
umes simply sat there in her dressing-gown, with the 
saddest of slow headshakes, looking suddenly too 
wan even to care that it was at last all out: "What 
in that case is the use of success and celebrity and 
genius ? You have no success ? " She had looked 
almost awestruck at this further confession of her 
friend. They were face to face in a poor human 
crudity, which transformed itself quickly into an 
effusive embrace. " You 've had it and lost it ? Then 
when it has been as great as yours one can lose it ? " 

"More easily than one can get it." 
143 



BROKEN WINGS 

Lady Claude continued to marvel. "But you do 
so much — and it 's so beautiful ! " On which Mrs. 
Harvey simply smiled again in her handsome despair, 
and after a moment found herself again in the arms 
of her visitor. The younger woman had remained 
for a time a good deal arrested and hushed, and had 
at any rate, sensitive and charming, immediately 
dropped, in the presence of this almost august unveil- 
ing, the question of her own thin troubles. But there 
are short cuts at that hour of night that morning 
scarce knows, and it took but little more of the breath 
of the real to suggest to Lady Claude more questions 
in such a connexion than she could answer for her- 
self. " How then, if you have n't private means, do 
you get on ? " 

"Ah I don't get on!" 

Lady Claude looked about. There were objects 
scattered in the fine old French room. "You've 
lovely things." 

"Two." 

"Two?" 

"Two frocks. I could n't stay another day." 

"Ah what's that? I couldn't either," said Lady 
Claude soothingly. "And you have," she continued, 
in the same spirit, "your nice maid — " 

"Who's indeed a charming woman, but my cook 
in disguise!" Mrs. Harvey dropped. 

"Ah you are clever!" her friend cried with a laugh 
that was as a climax of reassurance. 

"Extraordinarily. But don't think," Mrs. Harvey 
hastened to add, "that I mean that that's why I'm 
here." 

144 



BROKEN WINGS 

Her companion candidly thought. "Then why 
are you ? " 

" I have n't the least idea. I 've been wondering all 
the while, as I 've wondered so often before on such 
occasions, and without arriving at any other reason 
than that London 's so wild." 

Lady Claude wondered. "Wild ?" 

"Wild!" said her friend with some impatience. 
"That's the way London strikes." 

" But do you call such an invitation a blow ? " 

" Yes — crushing. No one else, at all events, 
either," Mrs. Harvey added, "could tell you why I 'm 
here." 

Lady Claude's power to drink in (and it was per- 
haps her most attaching quality) was greater still, 
when she felt strongly, than her power to reject. 
"Why how can you say that when you 've only to see 
how every one likes and admires you ? Just look 
at the Ambassador," she had earnestly insisted. And 
this was what had precisely, as I have mentioned, car- 
ried the stream of their talk a good deal away from its 
source. It had therefore not much further to go before 
setting in motion the name of Stuart Straith, as to 
whom Lady Claude confessed to an interest — good- 
looking, distinguished, "sympathetic " as he was — 
that she could really almost hate him for having done 
nothing whatever to encourage. He had n't spoken 
to her once. 

"But, my dear, if he hasn't spoken to me — !" 

Lady Claude appeared to regret this not too much 
for a hint that after all there might be a difference. 
"OhbutcowWhe?" 

145 



BROKEN WINGS 

"Without my having spoken to him first?" Mrs. 
Harvey turned it over. " Perhaps not ; but I could n't 
have done that." Then to explain, and not only be- 
cause Lady Claude was naturally vague, but because 
what was still visibly most vivid to her was her inde- 
pendent right to have been "made up" to : "And yet 
not because we're not acquainted." 

"You know him then?" 

"But too well." 

"You mean you don't like him ?" 

"On the contrary I like him to distraction." 

"Then what's the matter?" Lady Claude asked 
with some impatience. 

Her friend hung fire but a moment. "Well, he 
would n't have me." 

"'Have' you?" 

"Ten years ago, after Mr. Harvey's death, when if 
he had Hfted a finger I 'd have married him." 

"But he did n't lift it?" 

"He was too grand. I was too small — by his 
measure. He wanted to keep himself. He saw his 
future." 

Lady Claude earnestly followed. "His present 
position ? " 

" Yes — everything that was to come to him ; his 
steady rise in value." 

"Has it been so great?" 

"Surely — his situation and name. Don't you 
know his lovely work and what 's thought of it ? " 

"Oh yes, I know. That's why — " But Lady 
Claude stopped. After which : " But if he 's still keep- 
ing himself?" 

146 



BROKEN WINGS 

"Oh it's not for me," said Mrs. Harvey. 

"And evidently not for me. Whom then," her 
visitor asked, "does he think good enough?" 

"Oh these great people!" Mrs. Harvey smiled. 

" But we 're great people — you and I ! " And Lady 
Claude kissed her good-night, 

"You mustn't, all the same," the elder woman 
said, "betray the secret of my greatness, which 
I 've told you, please remember, only in the deepest 
confidence." 

Her tone had a quiet purity of bitterness that for a 
moment longer held her friend, after which Lady 
Claude had the happy inspiration of meeting it with 
graceful gaiety. "It's quite for the best, I'm sure, 
that Mr. Straith would n't have you. You 've kept 
yourself too; you'll marry yet — an ambassador!" 
And with another good-night she reached the door. 
"You say you don't get on, but you do." 

"Ah!" said Mrs. Harvey with vague attenuation. 

"Oh yes, you do," Lady Claude insisted, while the 
door emphasised it with a little clap that sounded 
through the still house. 



Ill 

The first night of "The New Girl" occurred, as 
every one remembers, three years ago, and the play is 
running yet, a fact that may render strange the failure 
to be deeply conscious of which two persons in the 
audience were guilty. It was not till afterwards pre- 
sent either to Mrs. Harvey or to Stuart Straith that 
"The New Girl " was one of the greatest successes of 
modem times. Indeed if the question had been put to 
them on the spot they might have appeared much at 
sea. But this, I may as well immediately say, was the 
result of their having found themselves side by side 
in the stalls and thereby given most of their attention 
to their own predicament. Straith showed he felt 
the importance of meeting it promptly, for he turned 
to his neighbour, who was already in her place, as soon 
as her identity had flushed well through his own 
arrival and subsidence. "I don't quite see how you 
can help speaking to me now." 

Her face could only show him how long she had 
been aware of his approach. "The sound of your 
voice, coming to me straight, makes it indeed as easy 
for me as I could possibly desire." 

He looked about at the serried rows, the loaded gal- 
leries and the stuffed boxes, with recognitions and 
nods; and this made between them another pause, 
during which, while the music seemed perfunctory 
and the bustle that in a London audience represents 

148 



BROKEN WINGS 

concentration Increased, they felt how effectually, in 
the thick preoccupied medium, how extraordinarily, 
they were together. 

"Well, that second afternoon at Mundham, just be- 
fore dinner, I was very near forcing your hand. But 
something put me off. You 're really too grand." 

"Oh!" she murmured. 

"Ambassadors," said Stuart Straith. 

"Oh!" she again sounded. And before anything 
more could pass the curtain was up. It came down 
in due course and achieved, after various intervals, 
the rest of its motions without interrupting for our 
friends the sense of an evening of talk. They said 
when it was down almost nothing about the play, and 
when one of them toward the end put to the other, 
vaguely, "Is — a — this thing going ? " the question 
had scarce the effect of being even relevant. What was 
clearest to them was that the people about were some- 
how enough taken up to leave them at their ease — 
but what taken up with they but half made out. Mrs. 
Harvey had none the less mentioned early that her 
presence had a reason and that she ought to attend, 
and her companion had asked her what she thought of 
a certain picture made at a given moment by the 
stage, in the reception of which he was so interested 
that it was really what had brought him. These were 
glances, however, that quickly strayed — strayed, for 
instance (as this could carry them far), in its coming to 
one of them to say that, whatever the piece might be, 
the real thing, as they had seen it at Mundham, was 
more than a match for any piece. For Mundham wax, 
theatrically, the real thing; better for scenery, dresses, 

149 



BROKEN WINGS 

music, pretty women, bare shoulders, everything — 
even coherent dialogue; a much bigger and braver 
shovs^, and got up, as it were, infinitely more "re- 
gardless." By Mundham they were held long enough 
to find themselves, though with an equal surprise, 
quite at one as to the special oddity of their having 
caught each other in such a plight. Straith said that 
he supposed what his friend meant was that it was 
odd he should have been there ; to which she returned 
that she had been imputing to him exactly that judge- 
ment of her own presence. 

"But why shouldn't you be?" he asked. "Isn't 
that just what you are ? Are n't you in your way — 
like those people — a child of fortune and fashion ? " 

He got no more answer to this for some time than 
if he had fairly wounded her. He indeed that evening 
got no answer at all that was direct. But in the next 
interval she brought out with abruptness, taking no 
account of some other matter he had just touched: 
"Don't you really know — ?" 

She had paused. " Know what ? " 

Again she went on without heeding. "A place like 
Mundham is, for me, a survival, though poor Mund- 
ham in particular won't, for me, have survived that 
visit — on which it 's to be pitied, is n't it ? It was 
a ghttering ghost — since laid ! — of my old time." 

Straith, at this, almost gave a start. "Have you got 
a new time ? " 

"Do you mean you yourself have ?" 

"Well," said Straith, "mine may now be called 
middle-aged. It seems so long, I mean, since I set my 
watch to it." 

150 



BROKEN WINGS 

"Oh I haven't even a watch!" she returned with 
a laugh, "I'm beyond watches." After which she 
added : "We might have met more — or, I should say 
perhaps, have got more out of it when we have met." 

"Yes, it has been too little. But I've always ex- 
plained it by our living in such different worlds." 

Mrs. Harvey could risk an abruptness. "Are you 
unhappy ? " 

He gave her a mild glare. "You said just now 
that you're beyond watches. I'm beyond unhappi- 
ness." 

She turned from him and presently brought out: 
"I ought absolutely to take away something of the 
play." 

" By all means. There 's certainly something / shall 
take." 

"Ah then you must help me — give it me." 

"With all my heart," said Straith, "if it can help 
you. It's my feeling of our renewal." 

She had one of the sad slow headshakes that at 
Mundham had been impressive to Lady Claude. 
"That won't help me." 

"Then you must let me put to you now what I 
should have tried to get near enough to you there 
to put if I had n't been so afraid of the Ambassador. 
What has it been so long — our impossibility ? " 

"Well, I can only answer for my own vision of it, 
which is — which always was — that you were sorry 
for me, but felt a sort of scruple of showing me you 
had nothing better than pity to give." 

"May I come to see you ? " Straith asked some min- 
utes after this. 

151 



BROKEN WINGS 

Her words, for which he had also a while to wait, 
had in truth as Httle as his own the appearance of 
a reply. "Are you unhappy — really ? Have n't you 
everything ? " 

"You're beautiful!" he said for all answer. 
"Mayn't I come.?" 

She demurred. "Where's your studio?" 

"Oh not too far for me to go to places. Don't be 
anxious; I can walk, or even take the bus." 

Mrs. Harvey once more delayed. Then she said : 
"Mayn't I rather come there?" 

"I shall be but too delighted." 

It was spoken promptly, even eagerly ; yet the under- 
standing appeared shortly after to have left between 
them a certain awkwardness, and it was almost as if 
to change the subject and relieve them equally that 
she suddenly reminded him of something he had 
spoken earlier. "You were to tell me why in particu- 
lar you had to be here." 

"Oh yes. To see my dresses." 

" Yours ! " She wondered. 

"The second act. I made them out for them — 
designed them." 

Before she could check it her tone escaped. "You ? " 

"I." He looked straight before him. "For the fee. 
And we did n't even notice them." 

"/ did n't," she confessed. But it offered the fact 
as a sign of her kindness for him, and this kindness 
was traceably what inspired something she said in 
the draughty porch, after the performance, while the 
footman of the friend, a fat rich immensely pleased 
lady who had given her a lift and then rejoined her 

152 



BROKEN WINGS 

from a seat in the balcony, went off to make sure of 
the brougham. "May I do something about your 
things ? " 

"•Do something'?" 

"When I 've paid you my visit. Write something — 
about your pictures. I do a correspondence," said 
Mrs. Harvey. 

He wondered as she had done in the stalls. "For 
a paper ? " 

"The Blackport Banner. A 'London Letter.' The 
new books, the new plays, the new twaddle of any sort 
— a little music, a little gossip, a little 'art.' You'll 
help me — I need it awfully — with the art. I do 
three a month." 

" Tou — wonderful you ? " He spoke as Lady 
Claude had done, and could no more help it again 
than Mrs. Harvey had been able to help it in the stalls. 

"Oh as you say, for the fee!" On which, as the 
footman signalled, her old lady began to plunge 
through the crowd. 



IV 



At the studio, where she came to him within the week, 
her first movement had been to exclaim on the splen- 
did abundance of his work. She had looked round 
charmed — so struck as to be, as she called it, crushed. 
"You've such a wonderful lot to show." 

"Indeed I have!" said Stuart Straith. 

"That's where you beat us." 

"I think it may very well be," he went on, "where 
I beat almost every one." 

"And is much of it new ?" 

He looked about with her. "Some of it's pretty 
old. But my things have a way, I admit, of growing 
old extraordinarily fast. They seem to me in fact 
nowadays quite 'born old.'" 

She had after a little the manner of coming back 
to something. "You are unhappy. You're not be- 
yond it. You 're just nicely, just fairly and squarely, 
in the middle of it." 

"Well," said Straith, "if it surrounds me like a 
desert, so that I'm lost in it, that comes to the same 
thing. But I want you to tell me about yourself." 

She had continued at first to move about and had 
taken out a pocket-book, which she held up at him. 
"This time I shall insist on notes. You made my mind 
a blank about that play, which is the sort of thing 
we can't afford. If it had n't been for my fat old lady 
and the next day's papers ! " She kept looking, going 
up to things, saying "How wonderful!" and "Oh 

154 



BROKEN WINGS 

your way!" and then stopping for a general im- 
pression, something in the whole charm. The place, 
high, handsome, neat, with two or three pale tapes- 
tries and several rare old pieces of furniture, showed 
a perfection of order, an absence of loose objects, as 
if it had been swept and squared for the occasion and 
made almost too immaculate. It was polished and 
cold — rather cold for the season and the weather; 
and Stuart Straith himself, buttoned and brushed, 
as fine and as clean as his room, might at her arrival 
have reminded her of the master of a neat bare ship 
on his deck and awaiting a cargo. "May I see every- 
thing? May I 'use' everything?" 

"Oh no; you mayn't by any means use every- 
thing. You may n't use half. Did I spoil your ' Lon- 
don Letter ' ? " he continued after a moment. 

"No one can spoil them as I spoil them myself. I 
can't do them — I don't know how, and don't want 
to. I do them wrong, and the people want such trash. 
Of course they'll 'sack' me." 

She was in the centre, and he had the effect of going 
round her, restless and vague, in large slow circles. 
"Have you done them long?" 

"Two or three months — this lot. But I 've done 
others and I know what happens. Oh, my dear, I 've 
done strange things!" 

"And is it a good job?" 

She hesitated, then puffed prettily enough an in- 
different sigh. "Three and ninepence. Is that good?" 
He had stopped before her, looking at her up and 
down. "What do you get ?" she went on, "for what 
you do for a play ? " 

155 



BROKEN WINGS 

"A little more, it would seem, than you. Four and 
sixpence. But I 've only done as yet that one. No- 
thing else has offered." 

" I see. But something will, eh .' " 

Poor Straith took a turn again. "Did you like 
them — for colour ? " But again he pulled up. "Oh 
I forgot; we did n't notice them!" 

For a moment they could laugh about it. "I not- 
iced them, I assure you, in the Banner. 'The cos- 
tumes in the second act are of the most marvellous 
beauty.' That's what I said." 

"Oh that'll fetch the managers!" But before her 
again he seemed to take her in from head to foot. 
"You speak of 'using' things. If you'd only use 
yourself — for my enlightenment. Tell me all." 

"You look at me," said Mrs. Harvey, "as with the 
wonder of who designs my costumes. How I dress on 
it, how I do even what I still do on it — on the three 
and ninepence — is that whutyou want to know?" 

"What has happened to you ?" Straith asked. 

" How do I keep it up ? " she continued as if she 
hadn't heard him. "But I don't keep it up. Ton 
do," she declared as she again looked round her. 

Once more it set him off, but for a pause again 
almost as quick. " How long have you been — ? " 

" Been what ? " she asked as he faltered. 

"Unhappy." 

She smiled at him from a depth of indulgence. "As 
long as you 've been ignorant — that what I 've been 
wanting is your pity. Ah to have to know, as I be- 
lieved I did, that you supposed it would wound me, 
and not to have been able to make you see it was the 

156 



BROKEN WINGS 

one thing left to me that would help me ! Give me 
your pity now. It 's all I want. I don't care for any- 
thing else. But give me that." 

He had, as it happened at the moment, to do a 
smaller and a usual thing before he could do one so 
great and so strange. The youth whom he kept for 
service arrived with a tea-tray, in arranging a place 
for which, with the sequel of serving Mrs. Harvey, 
seating her and seeing the youth again out of the 
room, some minutes passed. "What pity could I 
dream of for you," he demanded as he at last dropped 
near her, "when I was myself so miserably sore?" 

"Sore?" she wondered. "But you were happy — 
then." 

" Happy not to have struck you as good enough ? 
For I did n't, you know," he insisted. "You had your 
success, which was so immense. You had your high 
value, your future, your big possibilities; and I per- 
fectly understood that, given those things, and given 
also my very much smaller situation, you should wish 
to keep yourself." 

"Oh, oh!" She gasped as if hurt. 

"I understand it; but how could it really make me 
'happy'?" he asked. 

She turned at him as with her hand on the old scar 
she could now carry. "You mean that all these years 
you 've really not known — ? " 

" But not known what ? " 

His voice was so blank that at the sound of it, and 
at something that looked out from him, she only found 
another "Oh, oh!" which became the next instant a 
burst of tears. 



She had appeared at first unwilling to receive him at 
home; but he understood it after she had left him, 
turning over more and more everything their meeting 
had shaken to the surface and piecing together mem- 
ories that at last, however darkly, made a sense. He 
was to call on her, it was finally agreed, but not till the 
end of the week, when she should have finished "mov- 
ing " — she had but just changed quarters ; and 
meanwhile, as he came and went, mainly in the cold 
chamber of his own past endeavour, which looked 
even to himself as studios look when artists are dead 
and the public, in the arranged place, are admitted 
to stare, he had plenty to think about. What had 
come out — he could see it now — was that each, ten 
years before, had miserably misunderstood and then 
had turned for relief from pain to a perversity of 
pride. But it was himself above all he now sharply 
judged, since women, he felt, have to get on as they 
can, and for the mistake of this woman there were 
reasons he had to acknowledge with a sore heart. 
She had really found in the pomp of his early success, 
at the time they used to meet, and to care to, exactly 
the ground for her sense of failure with him that he 
had found in the vision of her gross popularity for 
his conviction that she judged him as comparatively 
small. Each had blundered, as sensitive souls of the 
"artistic temperament" blunder, into a conception 

158 



BROKEN WINGS 

not only of the other's attitude, but of the other's 
material situation at the moment, that had thrown 
them back on stupid secrecy, where their estrange- 
ment had grown like an evil plant in the shade. He 
had positively believed her to have gone on all the 
while making the five thousand a year that the first 
eight or ten of her so supremely happy novels had 
brought her in, just as she on her side had read into 
the felicity of his first new hits, his pictures "of the 
year" at three or four Academies, the absurdest 
theory of the sort of career that, thanks to big dealers 
and intelligent buyers, his gains would have built up 
for him. It looked vulgar enough now, but it had 
been grave enough then. His long detached delusion 
about her "prices," at any rate, appeared to have 
been more than matched by the strange stories oc- 
casionally floated to her — and all to make her but 
draw more closely in — on the subject of his own. 

It was with each equally that everything had 
changed — everything but the stiff consciousness in 
either of the need to conceal changes from the other. 
If she had cherished for long years the soreness of her 
not being "good" enough, so this was what had 
counted most in her sustained effort to appear at least 
as good as he. London meanwhile was big, London 
was blind and benighted; and nothing had ever 
occurred to undermine for him the fiction of her pro- 
sperity. Before his eyes there while she sat with him 
she had pulled off one by one those vain coverings of 
her state that she confessed she had hitherto done her 
best — and so always with an eye on himself — de- 
ceptively to draw about it. He had felt frozen, as he 

159 



BROKEN WINGS 

listened, by such likenesses to things he knew. He 
recognised as she talked, he groaned as he understood. 
He understood — oh at last, whatever he had n't done 
before! And yet he could well have smiled, out of 
their common abyss, at such odd identities and recur- 
rences. Truly the arts were sisters, as was so often 
said; for what apparently could be more like the 
experience of one than the experience of another ? 
And she spared him things with it all. He felt this 
too, just as, even while showing her how he followed, 
he had bethought himself of closing his lips for the 
hour, none too soon, on his own stale story. There 
had been a beautiful intelligence for that matter in 
her having asked him nothing more. She had over- 
flowed because shaken by not finding him happy, and 
her surrender had somehow offered itself to him as 
her way — the first that sprang up — of considering 
his trouble. She had left him at all events in full 
possession of all the phases through which in "lit- 
erary circles" acclaimed states may pass on their 
regular march to eclipse and extinction. One had but 
one's hour, and if one had it soon — it was really 
almost a case of choice — one did n't have it late. 
It might also never even remotely have approached, 
at its best, things ridiculously rumoured. Straith felt 
on the whole how little he had known of literary 
circles, or of any mystery but his own indeed; on 
which, up to actual impending collapse, he had 
mounted such anxious guard. 

It was when he went on the Friday to see her that 
he took in the latest of the phases in question, which 
might very well be almost the final one; there was at 

1 60 



BROKEN WINGS 

least that comfort in it. She had just settled in a small 
flat, where he recognised in the steady disposal, for 
the best, of various objects she had not yet parted 
with, her reason for having made him wait. Here they 
had together — these two worn and baffled workers 

— a wonderful hour of gladness in their lost battle 
and of freshness in their lost youth ; for it was not till 
Stuart Straith had also raised the heavy mask and laid 
it beside her own on the table that they began really 
to feel themselves recover something of that possibil- 
ity of each other they had so wearily wasted. Only 
she could n't get over it that he was like herself and 
that what she had shrunken to in her three or four 
simplified rooms had its perfect image in the specious 
show of his ordered studio and his accumulated work. 
He told everything now, kept no more back than she 
had kept at their previous meeting, while she repeated 
over and over " You — wonderful you ? " as if the 
knowledge made a deeper darkness of fate, as if the 
pain of his having come down at all almost quenched 
the joy of his having come so much nearer. When she 
learned that he had n't for three years sold a picture 

— "You, beautiful you?" — it seemed a new cold 
breath out of the dusk of her own outlook. Dis- 
appointment and despair were in such relations con- 
tagious, and there was clearly as much less again left 
to her as the little that was left to him. He showed 
her, laughing at the long queerness of it, how awfully 
little, as they called it, this was. He let it all come, 
but with more mirth than misery, and with a final 
abandonment of pride that was like changing at the 
end of a dreadful day from tight shoes to loose ones. 

i6l 



BROKEN WINGS 

There were moments when they might have resem- 
bled a couple united by some misdeed and meeting 
to decide on some desperate course ; they gave them- 
selves so to the great irony — the vision of the comic 
in contrasts — that precedes surrenders and extinc- 
tions. 

They went over the whole thing, remounted the 
dwindling stream, reconstructed, explained, under- 
stood — recognised in short the particular example 
they gave and how without mutual suspicion they 
had been giving it side by side. "We're simply the 
case," Straith familiarly put it, "of having been had 
enough of. No case is perhaps more common, save 
that for you and for me, each in our line, it did look 
in the good time — did n't it ? — as if nobody could 
have enough." With which they counted backward, 
gruesome as it was, the symptoms of satiety up to the 
first dawn, and lived again together the unforgettable 
hours — distant now — out of which it had begun to 
glimmer that the truth had to be faced and the right 
names given to the wrong facts. They laughed at their 
original explanations and the minor scale even of 
their early fears ; compared notes on the fallibility of 
remedies and hopes and, more and more united in 
the identity of their lesson, made out perfectly that, 
though there appeared to be many kinds of success, 
there was only one kind of failure. And yet what had 
been hardest had not been to have to shrink, but in 
the long game of bluff as Straith called it, to have 
to keep up. It fairly swept them away at present, 
however, the hugeness of the relief of no longer keep- 
ing up as against each other. This gave them all the 

l6z 



BROKEN WINGS 

measure of the motive their courage, on either side, 
in silence and gloom, had forced into its service. 

"Only what shall we do now for a motive?" 
Straith went on. 

She thought. "A motive for courage ?" 

"Yes — to keep up." 

"And go again for instance, do you mean, to Mund- 
ham ? We shall, thank heaven, never go again to 
Mundham. The Mundhams are over." 

" Nous n'irons plus au bois; 
Les lauriers sont coupes," 

sang Straith. "It does cost." 

"As everything costs that one does for the rich. 
It's not our poor relations who make us pay." 

"No; one must have means to acknowledge the 
others. We can't afford the opulent. But it is n't only 
the money they take." 

"It's the imagination," said Mrs. Harvey. "As 
they have none themselves — " 

"It's an article we have to supply? We've cer- 
tainly to use a lot to protect ourselves," Straith agreed. 
"And the strange thing is they like us." 

She thought again. "That's what makes it easy to 
cut them. They forgive." 

"Yes," her companion laughed; "once they really 
don't know you enough — ! " 

"They treat you as old friends. But what do we 
want now of courage ? " she went on. 

He wondered. "Yes, after all, what?" 

"To keep up, I mean. Why should we keep 
up?" 

163 



BROKEN WINGS 

It seemed to strike him. "I see. After all, why? 
The courage not to keep up — ! " 

"We have that at least," she declared, "haven't 
we?" United there at her little high-perched win- 
dow overhanging grey house-tops they let the con- 
sideration of this pass between them in a deep look 
as well as in a hush of which the intensity had some- 
thing commensurate. " If we 're beaten — ! " she then 
continued. 

"Let us at least be beaten together ! " He took her 
in his arms, she let herself go, and he held her long 
and close for the compact. But when they had re- 
covered themselves enough to handle their agreement 
more responsibly the words in which they confirmed 
it broke in sweetness as well as sadness from both 
together: "And now to work!" 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

I 

It was one of the secret opinions, such as we all have, 
of Peter Brench that his main success in life would 
have consisted in his never having committed him- 
self about the work, as it was called, of his friend 
Morgan Mallow. This was a subject on which it was, 
to the best of his belief, impossible with veracity to 
quote him, and it was nowhere on record that he had, 
in the connexion, on any occasion and in any embar- 
rassment, either lied or spoken the truth. Such a 
triumph had its honour even for a man of other 
triumphs — a man who had reached fifty, who had 
escaped marriage, who had lived within his means, 
who had been in love with Mrs. Mallow for years 
without breathing it, and who, last not least, had 
judged himself once for all. He had so judged him- 
self in fact that he felt an extreme and general humil- 
ity to be his proper portion ; yet there was nothing that 
made him think so well of his parts as the course he 
had steered so often through the shallows just men- 
tioned. It became thus a real wonder that the friends 
in whom he had most confidence were just those with 
whom he had most reserves. He could n't tell Mrs. 
Mallow — or at least he supposed, excellent man, he 
could n't — that she was the one beautiful reason he 
had never married; any more than he could tell her 

167 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

husband that the sight of the multiplied marbles in 
that gentleman's studio was an affliction of which 
even time had never blunted the edge. His victory, 
however, as I have intimated, in regard to these pro- 
ductions, was not simply in his not having let it out 
that he deplored them ; it was, remarkably, in his not 
having kept it in by anything else. 

The whole situation, among these good people, 
was verily a marvel, and there was probably not 
such another for a long way from the spot that en- 
gages us — the point at which the soft declivity of 
Hampstead bpgan at that time to confess in broken 
accents to Saint John's Wood. He despised Mallow's 
statues and adored Mallow's wife, and yet was dis- 
tinctly fond of Mallow, to whom, in turn, he was 
equally dear. Mrs. Mallow rejoiced in the statues — 
though she preferred, when pressed, the busts; and 
if she was visibly attached to Peter Brench it was 
because of his affection for Morgan. Each loved the 
other moreover for the love borne in each case to 
Lancelot, whom the Mallows respectively cherished 
as their only child and whom the friend of their fire- 
side identified as the third — but decidedly the hand- 
somest — of his godsons. Already in the old years 
it had come to that — that no one, for such a relation, 
could possibly have occurred to any of them, even to 
the baby itself, but Peter. There was luckily a certain 
independence, of the pecuniary sort, all round : the 
Master could never otherwise have spent his solemn 
Wanderjahre in Florence and Rome, and continued 
by the Thames as well as by the Arno and the Tiber 
to add unpurchased group to group and model, for 

i68 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

what was too apt to prove in the event mere love, 
fancy-heads of celebrities either too busy or too buried 
— too much of the age or too little of it — to sit. 
Neither could Peter, lounging in almost daily, have 
found time to keep the whole complicated tradition so 
alive by his presence. He was massive but mild, the 
depositary of these mysteries — large and loose and 
ruddy and curly, with deep tones, deep eyes, deep 
pockets, to say nothing of the habit of long pipes, soft 
hats and brownish greyish weather-faded clothes, 
apparently always the same. 

He had "written," it was known, bi|t had never 
spoken, never spoken in particular of that; arid he 
had the air (since, as was believed, he continued to 
write) of keeping it up in order to have something 
more — as if he had n't at the worst enough — to be 
silent about. Whatever his air, at any rate, Peter's 
occasional unmentioned prose and verse were quite 
truly the result of an impulse to maintain the purity 
of his taste by establishing still more firmly the right 
relation of fame to feebleness. The little green door 
of his domain was in a garden-wall on which the 
discoloured stucco made patches, and in the small 
detached villa behind it everything was old, the fur- 
niture, the servants, the books, the prints, the im- 
memorial habits and the new improvements. The 
Mallows, at Carrara Lodge, were within ten minutes, 
and the studio there was on their little land, to which 
they had added, in their happy faith, for building it. 
This was the good fortune, if it was not the ill, of her 
having brought him in marriage a portion that put 
them in a manner at their ease and enabled them 

169 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

thus, on their side, to keep it up. And they did keep 
it up — they always had — the infatuated sculptor 
and his wife, for whom nature had refined on the 
impossible by relieving them of the sense of the 
: difficult. Morgan had at all events everything of 
the sculptor but the spirit of Phidias — the brown 
velvet, the becoming heretto, the "plastic" presence, 
the fine fingers, the beautiful accent in Italian and 
the old Itahan factotum. He seemed to make up 
for everything when he addressed Egidio with the 
"tu " and waved him to turn one of the rotary pedes- 
tals of which the place was full. They were tremen- 
dous Italians at Carrara Lodge, and the secret of 
the part played by this fact in Peter's life was in a 
large degree that it gave him, sturdy Briton as he 
was, just the amount of "going abroad" he could 
bear. The Mallows were all his Italy, but it was in 
a measure for Italy he liked them. His one worry 
was that Lance — to which they had shortened his 
godson — was, in spite of a public school, perhaps 
a shade too Italian. Morgan meanwhile looked 
like somebody's flattering idea of somebody's own 
person as expressed in the great room provided at 
the Uffizzi Museum for the general illustration of that 
idea by eminent hands. The Master's sole regret 
that he had n't been born rather to the brush than to 
the chisel sprang from his wish that he might have 
contributed to that collection. 

It appeared with time at any rate to be to the 
brush that Lance had been born; for Mrs. Mallow, 
one day when the boy was turning twenty, broke it 
to their friend, who shared, to the last delicate mor- 

170 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

sel, their problems and pains, that it seemed as if 
nothing would really do but that he should embrace 
the career. It had been impossible longer to remain 
blind to the fact that he was gaining no glory at Cam- 
bridge, where Brench's own college had for a year 
tempered its tone to him as for Brench's own sake. 
Therefore why renew the vain form of preparing him 
for the impossible ? The impossible — it had become 
clear — was that he should be anything but an artist. 

"Oh dear, dear!" said poor Peter. 

" Don't you believe in it ? " asked Mrs. Mallow, 
who still, at more than forty, had her violet velvet 
eyes, her creamy satin skin and her silken chestnut 
hair. 

" Believe in what ? " 

"Why in Lance's passion." 

"I don't know what you mean by 'believing in it.' 
I 've never been unaware, certainly, of his disposition, 
from his earliest time, to daub and draw; but I 
confess I 've hoped it would burn out." 

"But why should it," she sweetly smiled, "with his 
wonderful heredity ? Passion is passion — though 
of course indeed you, dear Peter, know nothing of 
that. Has the Master's ever burned out ? " 

Peter looked off a little and, in his familiar formless 
way, kept up for a moment a sound between a 
smothered whistle and a subdued hum. "Do you 
think he 's going to be another Master ? " 

She seemed scarce prepared to go that length, yet 
she had on the whole a marvellous trust. "I know 
what you mean by that. Will it be a career to incur 
the jealousies and provoke the machinations that have 

171 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

been at times almost too much for his father ? Well — 
say it may be, since nothing but clap-trap, in these 
dreadful days, can, it would seem, make its way, and 
since, with the curse of refinement and distinction, 
one may easily find one's self begging one's bread. 
Put it at the worst — say he has the misfortune to 
wing his flight further than the vulgar taste of his 
stupid countrymen can follow. Think, all the same, 
of the happiness — the same the Master has had. 
n&'W know." 

Peter looked rueful. "Ah but what will he know ? " 
"Quiet joy!" cried Mrs. Mallow, quite impatient 
and turning away. 



II 



He had of course before long to meet the boy him- 
self on it and to hear that practically everything was 
settled. Lance was not to go up again, but to go in- 
stead to Paris where, since the die was cast, he would 
find the best advantages. Peter had always felt he 
must be taken as he was, but had never perhaps found 
him so much of that pattern as on this occasion. 
"You chuck Cambridge then altogether? Doesn't 
that seem rather a pity ? " 

Lance would have been like his father, to his 
friend's sense, had he had less humour, and like 
his mother had he had more beauty. Yet it was 
a good middle way for Peter that, in the modern 
manner, he was, to the eye, rather the young stock- 
broker than the young artist. The youth reasoned 
that it was a question of time — there was such a mill 
to go through, such an awful lot to learn. He had 
talked with fellows and had judged. "One has got, 
to-day," he said, "don't you see? to know." 

His interlocutor, at this, gave a groan. "Oh hang 
it, dont know!" 

Lance wondered. "'Don't'? Then what's the 
use — ?" 

"The use of what?" 

"Why of anything. Don't you think I 've talent ? " 

Peter smoked away for a little in silence; then 
went on : " It is n't knowledge, it 's ignorance that — 
as we 've been beautifully told — is bliss." 

173 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

" Don't you think I 've talent ? " Lance repeated. 

Peter, with his trick of queer kind demonstrations, 
passed his arm round his godson and held him a 
moment. "How do I know?" 

"Oh," said the boy, "if it's your own ignorance 
you're defending — !" 

Again, for a pause, on the sofa, his godfather 
smoked. " It is n't. I 've the misfortune to be omni- 
scient." 

"Oh well," Lance laughed again, "if you know too 
much—!" 

"That 's what I do, and it's why I 'm so wretched." 

Lance's gaiety grew. "Wretched ? Come, I 
say!" 

" But I forgot," his companion went on — "you 're 
not to know about that. It would indeed for you too 
make the too much. Only I '11 tell you what I '11 do." 
And Peter got up from the sofa. " If you '11 go up 
again I '11 pay your way at Cambridge." 

Lance stared, a little rueful in spite of being still 
more amused. "Oh Peter! You disapprove so of 
Paris?" 

"Well, I'm afraid of it." 

"Ah I see!" 

"No, you don't see — yet. But you will — that is 
you would. And you must n't." 

The young man thought more gravely. " But one's 
innocence, already — !" 

" Is considerably damaged ? Ah that won't matter," 
Peter persisted — "we'll patch it up here." 

"Here ? Then you want me to stay at home ?" 

Peter almost confessed to it. "Well, we're so 
174 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

right — we four together — just as we are. We 're so 
safe. Come, don't spoil it." 

The boy, who had turned to gravity, turned from 
this, on the real pressure in his friend's tone, to con- 
sternation. "Then what's a fellow to be?" 

"My particular care. Come, old man" — and 
Peter now fairly pleaded — "/'// look out for 
you." 

Lance, who had remained on the sofa with his legs 
out and his hands in his pockets, watched him with 
eyes that showed suspicion. Then he got up. "You 
think there 's something the matter with me — that I 
can't make a success." 

"Well, what do you call a success .'"' 

Lance thought again. "Why the best sort, I sup- 
pose, is to please one's self. Is n't that the sort that, 
in spite of cabals and things, is — in his own peculiar 
line — the Master's ? " 

There were so much too many things in this ques- 
tion to be answered at once that they practically 
checked the discussion, which became particularly 
difficult in the light of such renewed proof that, 
though the young man's innocence might, in the' 
course of his studies, as he contended, somewhat 
have shrunken, the finer essence of it still remained. \ 
That was indeed exactly what Peter had assumed and 
what above all he desired ; yet perversely enough j 
it gave him a chill. The boy believed in the cabals/ 
and things, believed in the peculiar line, believed, to 
be brief, in the Master. What happened a month or" 
two |later was n't that he went up again at the ex- 
pense of his godfather, but that a fortnight after 

175 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEE)GE 

he had got settled in Paris this personage sent him 
fifty pounds. _ _ ,^,^, 

He had meanwhile at home, this personage, made 
up his mind to the worst; and what that might be had 
never yet grown quite so vivid to him as when, on 
his presenting himself one Sunday night, as he never 
failed to do, for supper, the mistress of Carrara Lodge 
met him with an appeal as to — of all things in 
the world — the wealth of the Canadians. She was 
earnest, she was even excited. "Are many of them 
really rich ? " 

He had to confess he knew nothing about them, 
but he often thought afterwards of that evening. 
The room in which they sat was adorned with sundry 
specimens of the Master's genius, which had the 
merit of being, as Mrs. Mallow herself frequently 
suggested, of an unusually convenient size. They 
were indeed of dimensions not customary in the pro- 
ducts of the chisel, and they had the singularity that, 
if the objects and features intended to be small looked 
too large, the objects and features intended to be 
large looked too small. The Master's idea, either in 
respect to this matter or to any other, had in almost 
any case, even after years, remained undiscoverable 
to Peter Brench. The creations that so failed to re- 
veal it stood about on pedestals and brackets, on 
tables and shelves, a little staring white population, 
heroic, idyllic, allegoric, mythic, symbolic, in which 
"scale" had so strayed and lost itself that the public 
square and the chimney-piece seemed to have changed 
places, the monumental being all diminutive and the 
diminutive all monumental; branches at any rate,' 

176 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

markedly, of a family in which stature was rather 
oddly irrespective of function, age and sex. They 
formed, like the Mallows themselves, poor Brench's 
own family — having at least to such a degree the 
note of familiarity. The occasion was one of those he 
had long ago learnt to know and to name — short 
flickers of the faint flame, soft gusts of a kinder air. 
Twice a year regularly the Master believed in his 
■" fortune, in addition to believing all the year round in 
his genius. This time it was to be made by a be- 
reaved couple from Toronto, who had given him the 
handsomest order for a tomb to three lost children, 
each of whom they desired to see, in the composition, 
emblematically and characteristically represented. 

Such was naturally the moral of Mrs. Mallow's 
question : if their wealth was to be assumed, it was 
clear, from the nature of their admiration, as well as 
from mysterious hints thrown out (they were a little 
odd !) as to other possibilities of the same mortuary 
sort, that their further patronage might be; and not 
less evident that should the Master become at all 
known in those climes nothing would be more in- 
evitable than a run of Canadian custom. Peter had 
been present before at runs of custom, colonial and 
domestic — present at each of those of which the 
aggregation had left so few gaps in the marble com- 
pany round him ; but it was his habit never at these 
junctures to prick the bubble in advance. The 
fond illusion, while it lasted, eased the wound of 
elections never won, the long ache of medals and 
diplomas carried off, on every chance, by every one 
but the Master; it moreover lighted the lamp that 

177 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

would glimmer through the next eclipse. They 
lived, however, after all — as it was always beautiful 
to see — at a height scarce susceptible of ups and 
downs. They strained a point at times charmingly, 
strained it to admit that the public was here and there 
not too bad to buy; but they would have been nowhere 
without their attitude that the Master was always 
j too good to sell. They were at all events deliciously 
I formed, Peter often said to himself, for their fate; 
I the Master had a vanity, his wife had a loyalty, of 
which success, depriving these things of innocence, 
would have diminished the merit and the grace. 
Any one could be charming under a charm, and as 
he looked about him at a world of prosperity more 
void of proportion even than the Master's museum 
he wondered if he knew another pair that so com- 
pletely escaped vulgarity. 

"What a pity Lance is n't with us to rejoice ! " Mrs. 
Mallow on this occasion sighed at supper. 

"We'll drink to the health of the absent," her 
husband replied, filling his friend's glass and his own 
I and giving a drop to their companion ; " but we must 
jhope he's preparing himself for a happiness much 
i less like this of ours this evening — excusable as I 
{ grant it to be ! — than like the comfort we have 
I always (whatever has happened or has not happened) 
t been able to trust ourselves to enjoy. The comfort," 
the Master explained, leaning back in the pleasant 
lamplight and firelight, holding up his glass and look- 
ing round at his marble family, quartered more or 
less, a monstrous brood, in every room — "the com- 
fort of art in itself!" 

178 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

Peter looked a little shyly at his wine. "Well — 
I don't care what you may call it when a fellow 
does n't — but Lance must learn to sell, you know. 
I drink to his acquisition of the secret of a base 
popularity ! " 

" Oh yes, he must sell," the boy's mother, who was 
still more, however, this seemed to give out, the 
Master's wife, rather artlessly allowed. 

"Ah," the sculptor after a moment confidently 
pronounced, "Lance will. Don't be afraid. He'll 
have learnt." 

"Which is exactly what Peter," Mrs. Mallow gaily 
returned — "why in the world were you so perverse, 
Peter .? — would n't when he told him hear of." 

Peter, when this lady looked at him with accusa- 
tory affection — a grace on her part not infrequent 

— could never find a word ; but the Master, who was 
always all amenity and tact, helped him out now as 
he had often helped him before. "That's his old 
idea, you know — on which we've so often differed: 
his theory that the artist should be all impulse and 
instinct. / go in of course for a certain amount of 
school. Not too much — but a due proportion. 
There's where his protest came in," he continued to 
explain to his wife, "as against what might, don't 
you see .? be in question for Lance." 

"Ah well" — and Mrs. Mallow turned the violet 
eyes across the table at the subject of this discourse 

— "he's sure to have meant of course nothing but 
good. Only that would n't have prevented him, if 
Lance had taken his advice, from being in effect 
horribly cruel." 

179 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

They had a sociable way of talking of him to his 
face as if he had been in the clay or — at most — in 
the plaster, and the Master was unfailingly generous. 
He might have been waving Egidio to make him 
revolve. "Ah but poor Peter was n't so wrong as 
to what it may after all come to that he will learn." 

"Oh but nothing artistically bad," she urged — 
still, for poor Peter, arch and dewy. 
/ "Why just the little French tricks," said the 
Master: on which their friend had to pretend to 
admit, when pressed by Mrs. Mallow, that these 
aesthetic vices had been the objects of his dread. 



Ill 



"I KNOW now," Lance said to him the next year, 
"why you were so much against it." He had come 
back supposedly for a mere interval and was look- 
ing about him at Carrara Lodge, where indeed he 
had already on two or three occasions since his 
expatriation briefly reappeared. This had the air of 
a longer holiday. " Something rather awful has hap- 
pened to me. It is n't so very good to know." 

" I 'm bound to say high spirits don't show in your 
face," Peter was rather ruefully forced to confess. 
"Still, are you very sure you do know?" 

"Well, I at least know about as much as I can 
bear." These remarks were exchanged in Peter's 
den, and the young man, smoking cigarettes, stood 
before the fire with his back against the mantel. 
Something of his bloom seemed really to have left 
him. 

Poor Peter wondered. "You're clear then as to 
what in particular I wanted you not to go for ? " 

" In particular ? " Lance thought. " It seems to me 
that in particular there can have been only one 
thing." 

They stood for a little sounding each other. "Are 
you quite sure ? " 

"Quite sure I 'm a beastly duffer } Quite — by this 
time." 

"Oh ! " — and Peter turned away as if almost with 
relief. 

i8i 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

"It's that that is n't pleasant to find out." 

"Oh I don't care for 'that,'" said Peter, presently 
coming round again. "I mean I personally don't." 

"Yet I hope you can understand a little that I 
myself should ! " 

"Well, what do you mean by it ? " Peter sceptically 
asked. 

And on this Lance had to explain — how the up- 
shot of his studies in Paris had inexorably proved a 
mere deep doubt of his means. These studies had so 
waked him up that a new light was in his eyes; but 
what the new light did was really to show him too 
much. " Do you know what 's the matter with me ? 
I 'm too horribly intelligent. Paris was really the last 
place for me. I 've learnt what I can't do." 

Poor Peter stared — it was a staggerer ; but even 
after they had had, on the subject, a longish talk in 
which the boy brought out to the full the hard truth 
of his lesson, his friend betrayed less pleasure than 
usually breaks into a face to the happy tune of "I 
told you so ! " Poor Peter himself made now indeed so 
little a point of having told him so that Lance broke 
ground in a different place a day or two after. " What 
was it then that — before I went — you were afraid 
I should find out ? " This, however, Peter refused to 
tell him — on the ground that if he had n't yet guessed 
perhaps he never would, and that in any case nothing 
at all for either of them was to be gained by giving 
the thing a name. Lance eyed him on this an instant 
with the bold curiosity of youth — with the air indeed 
of having in his mind two or three names, of which 
one or other would be right. Peter nevertheless, turn- 

182 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

ing his back again, offered no encouragement, and 
when they parted afresh it was with some show of 
impatience on the side of the boy. Accordingly on 
their next encounter Peter saw at a glance that he 
had now, in the interval, divined and that, to sound 
his note, he was only waiting till they should find 
themselves alone. This he had soon arranged and 
he then broke straight out. "Do you know your 
conundrum has been keeping me awake ? But in the 
watches of the night the answer came over me — so 
that, upon my honour, I quite laughed out. Had you 
been supposing I had to go to Paris to learn that?" 
Even now, to see him still so sublimely on his guard, 
Peter's young friend had to laugh afresh. "You won't 
give a sign till you 're sure ? Beautiful old Peter ! " 
But Lance at last produced it. "Why, hang it, .the 
truth about the Master." , ;;: 

It made between them for some minutes a lively 
passage, full of wonder for each at the wonder of 
the other. "Then how long have you understood — " 

"The true value of his work ? I understood it," 
Lance recalled, "as soon as I began to understand 
anything. But I didn't begin fully to do that, I 
admit, till I got la-has." 4- fo^^'- 

" Dear, dear ! " — Peter gasped with retrospective 
dread. 

" But for what have you taken me ? I 'm a hopeless 
muff — that I had to have rubbed in. But I'm riot 
such a muff as the Master ! " Lance declared. 

"Then why did you never tell me — ?" 

"That I had n't, after all " — the boy took him up 
— "remained such an idiot? Just because I never 

183 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

dreamed you knew. But I beg your pardon. I only 
wanted to spare you. And what I don't now under- 
stand is how the deuce then for so long you 've man- 
aged to keep bottled." 

Peter produced his explanation, but only after some 
delay and with a gravity not void of embarrassment. 
"It was for your mother." 

"Oh!" said Lance. 

"And that's the great thing now — since the 
murder is out. I want a promise from you. I mean " 
— and Peter almost feverishly followed it up — "a 
vow from you, solemn and such as you owe me here 
on the spot, that you '11 sacrifice anything rather than 
let her ever guess — " 

"That I've guessed?" — Lance took it in. "I 
see." He evidently after a moment had taken in 
much. "But what is it you've in mind that I may 
have a chance to sacrifice ? " 

"Oh one has always something." 

Lance looked at him hard. "Do you mean that 
you 've had — ? " The look he received back, how- 
ever, so put the question by that he found soon enough 
another. "Are you really sure my mother doesn't 
know?" 

Peter, after renewed reflexion, was really sure. " If 
she does she 's too wonderful." 

" But are n't we all too wonderful ? " 

"Yes," Peter granted — "but in different ways. 
The thing's so desperately important because your 
father's little public consists only, as you know then," 
Peter developed — "well, of how many ? " 

"First of all," the Master's son risked, "of him- 
184 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

self. And last of all too. I don't quite see of whom 
else." 

Peter had an approach to impatience. "Of your 
mother, I say — always." 

Lance cast it all up. "You absolutely feel that?" 

"Absolutely." 

"Well then with yourself that makes three." 

"Oh me!" — and Peter, with a wag of his kind old 
head, modestly excused himself. "The number's at 
any rate small enough for any individual dropping 
out to be too dreadfully missed. Therefore, to put it 
in a nutshell, take care, my boy — that 's all — that 
you 're not ! " t 

"I've got to keep on humbugging.?" Lance 
wailed. 

" It 's just to warn you of the danger of your failing 
of that that I 've seized this opportunity." 

"And what do you regard in particular," the young 
man asked, "as the danger?" 

" Why this certainty : that the moment your mother, 
who feels so strongly, should suspect your secret — 
well," said Peter desperately, "the fat would be on 
the fire." 

Lance for a moment seemed to stare at the blaze. 
"She'd throw me over ?" 

"She'd throw him over." 

"And come round to us ?" 

Peter, before he answered, turned away. "Come 
round to you." But he had said enough to indicate 
— and, as he evidently trusted, to avert — the horrid 
contingency. 



IV 

Within six months again, none the less, his fear was 
on more occasions than one all before him. Lance 
had returned to Paris for another trial; then had 
reappeared at home and had had, with his father, for 
the first time in his life, one of the scenes that strike 
sparks. He described it with much expression to 
Peter, touching whom (since they had never done so 
before) it was the sign of a new reserve on the part of 
the pair at Carrara Lodge that they at present failed, 
on a matter of intimate interest, to open themselves 
— if not in joy then in sorrow — to their good friend. 
This produced perhaps practically between the par- 
ties a shade of alienation and a slight intermission 
of commerce — marked mainly indeed by the fact 
that to talk at his ease with his old playmate Lance 
had in general to come to see him. The closest if not 
quite the gayest relation they had yet known together 
was thus ushered in. The difficulty for poor Lance 
was a tension at home — begotten by the fact that 
his father wished him to be at least the sort of success 
he himself had been. He had n't "chucked " Paris — 
though nothing appeared more vivid to him than that 
Paris had chucked him : he would go back again be- 
cause of the fascination in trying, in seeing, in sound- 
ing the depths — in learning one's lesson, briefly, 
even if the lesson were simply that of one's impotence 
in the presence of one's larger vision. But what did 

i86 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

the Master, all aloft in his senseless fluency, know of 
impotence, and what vision — to be called such — 
had he in all his blind life ever had ? Lance, heated 
and indignant, frankly appealed to his godparent on 
this score. 

His father, it appeared, had come down on him for 
having, after so long, nothing to show, and hoped that 
on his next return this deficiency would be repaired. 
The thing, the Master complacently set forth was — 
for any artist, however inferior to himself — at least j 
to " do " something. "What can you do ? That 's all 
I ask!" He had certainly done enough, and there 
was no mistake about what he had to show. Lance 
had tears in his eyes when it came thus to letting his 
old friend know how great the strain might be on the 
"samfice" asked of him. It was n't so easy to con- 
tinue humougging — as from son to parent — after 
feeling one's self despised for not grovelling in medi- 
ocrity.") Yet a noble duplicity was what, as they inti- 
mately faced the situation, Peter went on requiring; 
and it was still for a time what his young friend, bit- 
ter and sore, managed loyally to comfort him with. 
Fifty pounds more than once again, it was true, re- 
warded both in London and in Paris the young 
friend's loyalty; none the less sensibly, doubtless, at 
the moment, that the money was a direct advance on 
a decent sum for which Peter had long since privately 
prearranged an ultimate function. Whether by these i 
arts or others, at all events. Lance's just resentment 
was kept for a season — but only for a season — at 
bay. The day arrived when he warned his companion 
that he could hold out — or hold in — no longer. 

187 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

Carrara Lodge had had to listen to another lecture 
delivered from a great height — an infliction really 
heavier at last than, without striking back or in some 
way letting the Master have the truth, flesh and blood 
could bear. 

"And what I don't see is," Lance observed with a 
certain irritated eye for what was after all, if it came 
to that, owing to himself too; "what I don't see is, 
upon my honour, how you, as things are going, can 
keep the game up." 

"Oh the game for me is only to hold my tongue," 
said placid Peter. "And I have my reason." 

"Still my mother?" 

Peter showed a queer face as he had often shown 
it before — that is by turning it straight away. "What' 
will you have ? I have n't ceased to like her." 

" She 's beautiful — she 's a dear of course," Lance 
allowed ; " but what is she to you, after all, and what 
is it to you that, as to anything whatever, she should 
or she should n't ? " 

Peter, who had turned red, hung fire a little. "Well 
— it 's all simply what I make of it." 

There was now, however, in his young friend a 
strange, an adopted insistence. "What are you after 
all to her?" 

"Oh nothing. But that's another matter." 

"She cares only for my father," said Lance the 
Parisian. 

"Naturally — and that's just why." 

"Why you've wished to spare her ?" 

" Because she cares so tremendously much." 

Lance took a turn about the room, but with his 
i88 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

eyes still on his host. "How awfully — always — you 
must have liked her!" 

"Awfully, Always," said Peter Brench. 

The young man continued for a moment to muse 
— then stopped again in front of him. "Do you 
know how much she cares ? " Their eyes met on it, 
but Peter, as if his own found something new in 
Lance's, appeared to hesitate, for the first time in 
an age, to say he did know. "I've only just found 
out," said Lance. " She came to my room last night, 
after being present, in silence and only with her 
eyes on me, at what I had had to take from him: 
she came — and she was with me an extraordinary 
hour." 

He had paused again and they had again for a 
while sounded each other. Then something — and it 
made him suddenly turn pale — came to Peter. "She 
does know ? " 

"She does know. She let it all out to me — so as 
to demand of me no more than * that,' as she said, of 
which she herself had been capable. She has always, 
always known," said Lance without pity. 

Peter was silent a long time; during which his 
companion might have heard him gently breathe, 
and on touching him might have felt within him 
the vibration of a long low sound suppressed. By the 
time he spoke at last he had taken everything in. 
" Then I do see how tremendously much." 

"Is n't it wonderful ?" Lance asked. 

"Wonderful," Peter mused. 

"So that if your original effort to keep me from 
Paris was to keep me from knowledge — !" Lance 

189 



THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE 

exclaimed as if with a sufficient indication of this 
futility. 

It might have been at the futility Peter appeared 
for a little to gaze. "I think it must have been — 
without my quite at the time knowing it — to keep 
me!" he replied at last as he turned away. 



THE 
ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE 
NORTHMORES 

I 

When Lord Northmore died public reference to the 
event took for the most part rather a ponderous and 
embarrassed form. A great political figure had passed 
away. A great light of our time had been quenched 
in mid-career. A great usefulness had somewhat an- 
ticipated its term, though a great part, none the less, 
had been signally played. The note of greatness, all 
along the line, kept sounding, in short, by a force of 
its own, and the image of the departed evidently lent 
itself with ease to figures and flourishes, the poetry 
of the daily press. The newspapers and their pur- 
chasers equally did their duty by it — arranged it 
neatly and impressively, though perhaps with a hand 
a little violently expeditious, upon the funeral-car, 
saw the conveyance properly down the avenue and 
then, finding the subject suddenly quite exhausted, 
proceeded to the next item on their list. His lordship 
had been a person in connexion with whom — that 
was it — there was almost nothing but the fine mono- 
tony of his success to mention. This success had 
been his profession, his means as well as his end ; so 
that his career admitted of no other description and 
demanded, indeed suffered, no further analysis. He 

193 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

had made politics, he had made literature, he had 
made land, he had made a bad manner and a great 
many mistakes, he had made a gaunt foolish wife, 
two extravagant sons and four awkward daughters 
— he had made everything, as he could have made 
almost anything, thoroughly pay. There had been 
something deep down in him that did it, and his old 
friend Warren Hope, the person knowing him earliest 
and probably on the whole best, had never, even 
to the last, for curiosity, quite made out what it was. 
The secret was one that this distinctly distanced 
competitor had in fact mastered as little for intel- 
lectual relief as for emulous use; and there was a 
virtual tribute to it in the way that, the night before 
the obsequies and addressing himself to his wife, 
he said after some silent thought: "Hang it, you 
know, I must see the old boy through. I must go to 
the grave." 

Mrs. Hope at first looked at her husband but in 
anxious silence. "I 've no patience with you. You're 
much more ill than he ever was." 

"Ah but if that qualifies me only for the funerals 
of others — !" 

"It qualifies you to break my heart by your exag- 
gerated chivalry, your renewed refusal to consider 
your interests. You sacrificed them to him, for thirty 
years, again and again, and from this supreme sacri- 
fice — possibly that of your life — you might, in your 
condition, I think, be absolved." She indeed lost 
patience. "To the grave — in this weather — after 
his treatment of you ? " 

"My dear girl," Hope replied, "his treatment of 
194 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

me is a figment of your ingenious mind — your too- 
passionate, your beautiful loyalty. Loyalty, I mean, 
to me." 

"I certainly leave it to you," she declared, "to have 
any to him!" 

"Well, he was after all one's oldest, one's earliest 
friend. I'm not in such bad case — I do go out; 
and I want to do the decent thing. The fact remains 
that we never broke — we always kept together." 

"Yes indeed," she laughed in her bitterness, "he 
always took care of that ! He never recognised you, 
but he never let you go. You kept him up, and he 
kept you down. He used you, to the last drop he 
could squeeze, and left you the only one to wonder, 
in your incredible idealism and your incorrigible 
modesty, how on earth such an idiot made his way. 
He made his way on your back. You put it candidly 
to others — 'What in the world was his gift ?' And 
others are such gaping idiots that they too have n't 
the least idea. Tou were his gift ! " 

"And you 're mine, my dear ! " her husband, press- 
ing her to him, more gaily and resignedly cried. He 
went down the next day by "special" to the inter- 
ment, which took place on the great man's own pro- 
perty and in the great man's own church. But he went 
alone — that is in a numerous and distinguished party, 
the flower of the unanimous gregarious demonstra- 
tion ; his wife had no wish to accompany him, though 
she was anxious while he travelled. She passed the 
time uneasily, watching the weather and fearing the 
cold ; she roamed from room to room, pausing vaguely 
at dull windows, and before he came back she had 

195 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

thought of many things. It was as if, while he saw 
the great man buried, she also, by herself, in the 
contracted home of their later years, stood before an 
open grave. She lowered into it with her weak hands 
the heavy past and all their common dead dreams and 
accumulated ashes. The pomp surrounding Lord 
Northmore's extinction made her feel more than ever 
that it was not Warren who had made anything pay. 
He had been always what he was still, the cleverest 
man and the hardest worker she knew; but what was 
there, at fifty-seven, as the vulgar said, to "show" 
for it all but his wasted genius, his ruined health and 
his paltry pension ? It was the term of comparison 
conveniently given her by his happy rival's now fore- 
shortened splendour that set these things in her eye. 
It was as happy rivals to their own flat union that she 
always had thought of the Northmore pair ; the two 
men at least having started together, after the Uni- 
versity, shoulder to shoulder and with — superficially 
speaking — much the same outfit of preparation, 
ambition and opportunity. They had begun at the 
same point and wanting the same things — only want- 
ing them in such different ways. Well, the dead man 
had wanted them in the way that got them ; but got 
too, in his peerage for instance, those Warren had 
never wanted: there was nothing else to be said. 
There was nothing else, and yet, in her sombre, her 
strangely apprehensive solitude at this hour, she said 
much more than I can tell. It all came to this — that 
there had been somewhere and somehow a wrong. 
Warren was the one who should have succeeded. But 
she was the one person who knew it now, the single 

196 



.THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

other person having descended, with his knowledge, 
to the tomb. 

She sat there, she roamed there, in the waiting 
greyness of her small London house, with a deepened 
sense of the several odd knowledges that had flour- 
ished in their company of three. Warren had always 
known everything and, with his. easy power — in 
nothing so high as for indifference — had never 
cared. John Northmore had known, for he had, 
years and years before, told her so; and thus had 
had a reason the more — in addition to not believing 
her stupid — for guessing at her view. She lived 
back; she lived it over; she had it all there in her 
hand. John Northmore had known her first, and 
how he had wanted to marry her the fat little bundle 
of his love-letters still survived to tell. He had in- 
troduced Warren Hope to her — quite by accident 
and because, at the time they had chambers together, 
he could n't help it : that was the one thing he had 
done for them. Thinking of it now she perhaps saw 
how much he might conscientiously have considered 
that it disburdened him of more. Six months later 
she had accepted Warren, and just for the reason the 
absence of which had determined her treatment of 
his friend.. She had believed in his future. She held 
that John Northmore had never afterwards remitted 
the effort to ascertain the degree in which she felt her- 
self "sold." But, thank God, she had never shown 
him. 

Her husband came home with a chill and she put 
him straight to bed. For a week, as she hovered 
near him, they only looked deep things at each other; 

197 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

the point was too quickly passed at which she could 
bearably have said "I told you so!" That his late 
patron should never have had difficulty in making 
him pay was certainly no marvel. But it was indeed 
a little too much, after all, that he should have made 
him pay with his life. This was what it had come 
to — she was now sure from the first. Congestion 
of the lungs declared itself that night and on the 
morrow, sickeningly, she was face to face with pneu- 
monia. It was more than — with all that had gone 
before — they could meet. Ten days later Warren 
Hope succumbed. Tenderly, divinely as he loved her, 
she felt his surrender, through all the anguish, as an 
unspeakable part of the sublimity of indifference into 
which his hapless history had finally flowered. "His 
easy power, his easy power ! " — her passion had never 
yet found such relief in that simple secret phrase for 
him. He was so proud, so fine and so flexible that to 
fail a litde had been as bad for him as to fail much ; 
therefore he had opened the flood-gates wide — had 
thrown, as the saying was, the helve after the hatchet. 
He had amused himself with seeing what the de- 
vouring world would take. Well, it had taken all. 



II 



But it was after he had gone that his name showed 
as written in water. What had he left? He had 
only left her and her grey desolation, her lonely piety 
and her sore unresting rebellion. When a man died it 
sometimes did for him what life had n't done; people 
after a little, on one side or the other, discovered and 
named him, claiming him for their party, annexing 
him to their flag. But the sense of having lost Warren 
Hope appeared not in the least to have quickened 
the world's wit; the sharper pang for his widow 
indeed sprang just from the commonplace way in 
which he was spoken of as known. She received 
letters enough, when it came to that, for personally 
of course he had been liked; the newspapers were 
fairly copious and perfectly stupid ; the three or four 
societies, " learned " and other, to which he had be- 
longed, passed resolutions of regret and condolence, 
and the three or four colleagues about whom he him- 
self used to be most amusing stammered eulogies; 
but almost anything really would have been better 
for her than the general understanding that the oc- 
casion had been met. Two or three solemn noodles 
in "administrative circles" wrote her that she must 
have been gratified at the unanimity of regret, the 
implication being quite that she was else of the last 
absurdity. Meanwhile what she felt was that she 
could have borne well enough his not being noticed 

199 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

at all ; what she could n't bear was this treatment of 
him as a minor celebrity. He was, in economics, in 
the higher politics, in philosophic history, a splendid 
unestimated genius or he was nothing. He was n't 
at any rate — heaven forbid! — a "notable figure." 
The waters, none the less, closed over him as over 
Lord Northmore; which was precisely, as time went 
on, the fact she found it hardest to accept. That 
personage, the week after his death, without an hour 
of reprieve, the place swept as clean of him as a hall 
lent for a charity, of the tables and booths of a three- 
days' bazaar — that personage had gone straight to 
the bottom, dropped like a crumpled circular into the 
waste-basket. Where then was the difference ? — if 
the end was the end for each alike ? For Warren it 
should have been properly the beginning. 

During the first six months she wondered what 
she could herself do, and had much of the time the 
sense of walking by some swift stream on which an 
object dear to her was floating out to sea. All her 
instinct was to keep up with it, not to lose sight of it, 
to hurry along the bank and reach in advance some 
point from which she could stretch forth and catch 
and save it. Alas it only floated and floated ; she held 
t it in sight, for the stream was long, but no gentle 
( promontory offered itself to the rescue. She ran, 
she watched, she lived with her great fear; and all 
the while, as the distance to the sea diminished, the 
current visibly increased. To do anything at the last 
she must hurry. She went into his papers, she ran- 
sacked his drawers ; something of that sort at least she 
might do. But there were diflUculties, the case was 

200 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

special ; she lost herself in the labyrinth and her com- 
petence was challenged ; two or three friends to whose 
judgement she appealed struck her as tepid, even as 
cold, and publishers, when sounded — most of all in 
fact the house through which his three or four im- 
portant volumes had been given to the world — 
showed an absence of eagerness for a collection of 
literary remains. It was only now she fully under- 
stood how remarkably little the three or four import- 
ant volumes had "done." He had successfully kept 
that from her, as he had kept other things she might 
have ached at: to handle his notes and memoranda 
was to come at every turn, amid the sands of her be- 
reavement, upon the footsteps of some noble reason. 
But she had at last to accept the truth that it was only 
for herself, her own relief, that she must follow him. 
His work, unencouraged and interrupted, failed of a 
final form: there would have been nothing to offer 
but fragments of fragments. She felt, all the same, 
in recognising this, that she abandoned him : he died 
for her at that hour over again. 

The hour moreover happened to coincide with 
another hour, so that the two mingled their bitter- 
ness. She received from Lady Northmore a note 
announcing a desire to gather in and publish his late 
lordship's letters, so numerous and so interesting, 
and inviting Mrs. Hope, as a more than probable 
depositary, to be so good as to enrich the scheme 
with those addressed to her husband. This gave 
her a start of more kinds than one. The long comedy 
of his late lordship's greatness was not then over .? 
The monument was to be built to him that she had 

201 • 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

but now schooled herself to regard as impossible for 
his defeated friend ? Everything was to break out 
afresh, the comparisons, the contrasts, the conclusions 
so invidiously in his favour ? — the business all clev- 
: erly managed to place him in the light and keep every 
• one else in the shade ? Letters ? — had John North- 
more indited three lines that could at that time of 
day be of the smallest consequence ? Whose inept 
idea was such a publication, and what infatuated 
editorial patronage could the family have secured ? 
She of course did n't know, but she should be sur- 
prised if there were material. Then it came to her, on 
reflexion, that editors and publishers must of course 
have flocked — his star would still rule. Why 
should n't he make his letters pay in death as he had 
made them pay in life } Such as they were they had 
paid. They would be a tremendous hit. She thought 
again of her husband's rich confused relics — thought 
of the loose blocks of marble that could only lie now 
where they had fallen ; after which, with one of her 
deep and frequent sighs, she took up anew Lady 
Northmore's communication. 

His letters to Warren, kept or not kept, had never 
so much as occurred to her. Those to herself were 
buried and safe — she knew where her hand would 
find them ; but those to herself her correspondent had 
carefully not asked for and was probably unaware 
of the existence of. They belonged moreover to that 
phase of the great man's career that was distinctly — 
as it could only be called — previous : previous to the 
greatness, to the proper subject of the volume, pre- 
vious above all to Lady Northmore. The faded fat 

202 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

packet lurked still where it had lurked for years; 
but she could no more to-day have said why she had 
kept it than why — though he knew of the early 
episode — she had never mentioned her preservation 
of it to Warren. This last maintained reserve cer- 
tainly absolved her from mentioning it to Lady North- 
more, who probably knew of the episode too. The 
odd part of the matter was at any rate that her reten- 
tion of these documents had not been an accident. 
She had obeyed a dim instinct or a vague calculation. 
A calculation of what ? She could n't have told : it 
had operated, at the back of her head, simply as a 
sense that, not destroyed, the complete little collec- 
tion made for safety. But for whose, just heaven ? 
Perhaps she should still see; though nothing, she 
trusted, would occur requiring her to touch the things 
or to read them over. She would n't have touched 
them or read them over for the world. 

She had not as yet, in any case, overhauled those 
receptacles in which the letters Warren kept would 
have accumulated ; and she had her doubts of their 
containing any of Lord Northmore's. Why should 
he have kept any ? Even she herself had had more 
reasons. Was his lordship's later epistolary manner 
supposed to be good, or of the kind that, on any 
grounds, prohibited the waste-basket or the glowing 
embers ? Warren had lived in a deluge of documents, 
but these perhaps he might have regarded as contribu- 
tions to contemporary history. None the less, surely, 
he would n't have stored up many. She began a 
search in cupboards, boxes, drawers yet unvisited, 
and she had her surprises both at what he had kept 

203 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

and at what he had n't. Every word of her own was 
there — every note that in occasional absence he had 
ever had from her. Well, that matched happily 
enough her knowing just where to put her finger on 
every note that, on such occasions, she herself had 
received. Their correspondence at least was com- 
plete. But so, in fine, on one side, it gradually ap- 
peared, was Lord Northmore's. The superabundance 
of these missives had n't been sacrificed by her 
husband, evidently, to any passing convenience; she 
judged more and more that he had preserved every 
scrap ; and she was unable to conceal from herself that 
she was — she scarce knew why — a trifle disap- 
pointed. She had n't quite unhopefully, even though 
vaguely, seen herself informing Lady Northmore that, 
to her great regret and after a general hunt, she could 
find nothing at all. 

She in fact, alas, found everything. She was con- 
scientious and she rummaged to the end, by which 
time one of the tables quite groaned with the fruits of 
her quest. The letters appeared moreover to have 
been cared for and roughly classified — she should be 
able to consign them to the family in excellent order. 
She made sure at the last that she had overlooked 
nothing, and then, fatigued and distinctly irritated, 
she prepared to answer in a sense so different from 
the answer she had, as might have been said, planned. 
Face to face with her note, however, she found she 
could n't write it ; and, not to be alone longer with the 
pile on the table, she presently went out of the room. 
Late in the evening — just before going to bed — 
she came back almost as if hoping there might have 

204 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

been since the afternoon some pleasant intervention 
in the interest of her distaste. Might n't it have mag- 
ically happened that her discovery was a mistake ? — 
that the letters either were n't there or were after all 
somebody's else ? Ah they were there, and as she 
raised her lighted candle in the dusk the pile on the 
table squared itself with insolence. On this, poor 
lady, she had for an hour her temptation. 

It was obscure, it was absurd ; all that could be said 
of it was that it was for the moment extreme. She 
saw herself, as she circled round the table, writing 
with perfect impunity : " Dear Lady Northmore, I 've 
hunted high and low and have found nothing what- 
ever. -My husband evidently, before his death, 
destroyed everything. I 'm so sorry — I should have 
liked so much to help you. Yours most truly." She 
should have only on the morrow privately and re- 
solutely to annihilate the heap, and those words 
would remain an account of the matter that nobody 
was in a position to challenge. What good it would 
do her .? — was that the question .? It would do her 
the good that it would make poor Warren seem to 
have been just a little less used and duped. This, in 
her mood, would ease her off. Well, the temptation 
was real; but so, she after a while felt, were other 
things. She sat down at midnight to her note. "Dear 
Lady Northmore, I 'm happy to say I 've found a great 
deal — my husband appears to have been so careful 
to keep everything. I 've a mass at your disposition if 
you can conveniently send. So glad to be able to help 
your work. Yours most truly." She stepped out as 
she was and dropped the letter into the nearest pillar- 

205 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

box. By noon the next day the table had, to her 
relief, been cleared. Her ladyship sent a responsible 
servant — her butler — in a four-wheeler and with 
a large japanned box. 



Ill 



After this, for a twelvemonth, there were frequent 
announcements and allusions. They came to her 
from every side, and there were hours at which the 
air, to her imagination, contained almost nothing 
else. There had been, at an early stage, immediately 
after Lady Northmore's communication to her, an 
official appeal, a circular urbi et orhi, reproduced, 
applauded, commented in every newspaper, desiring 
all possessors of letters to remit them without delay to 
the family. The family, to do it justice, rewarded the 
sacrifice freely — so far as it was a reward to keep 
the world informed of the rapid progress of the 
work. Material had shown itself more copious than 
was to have been conceived. Interesting as the im- 
minent volumes had naturally been expected to 
prove, those who had been favoured with a glimpse 
of their contents already felt warranted in promising 
the public an unprecedented treat. They would 
throw upon certain sides of the writer's mind and 
career lights hitherto unsuspected. Lady Northmore, 
deeply indebted for favours received, begged to re- 
new her solicitation; gratifying as the response had 
been it was believed that, particularly in connexion 
with several dates now specified, a residuum of buried 
treasure might still be looked for. 

Mrs. Hope saw, she could but recognise, fewer 
and fewer people; yet her circle w?s even now not too 

207 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

narrow for her to hear it blown about that Thomp- 
son and Johnson had "been asked." Conversation 
in the London world struck her for a time as almost 
confined to such questions and answers. "Have 
you been asked?" "Oh yes — rather. Months ago. 
And you ? " With the whole place under contribu- 
tion the striking thing seemed that being asked had 
been attended in every case by the ability to re- 
spond. The spring had but to be touched — millions 
of letters flew out. Ten volumes at such a rate, Mrs. 
Hope brooded, would n't exhaust the supply. She 
brooded a great deal, did nothing but brood; and, 
strange as this may at first appear, one of the. final 
results of her brooding was the growth of a germ of 
doubt. It could only seem possible, in view of such 
unanimity, that she should have been stupidly mis- 
taken. The great departed's reputation was then to 
the general sense a sound safe thing. Not he, im- 
mortal, had been at fault, but just her silly self, still 
burdened with the fallibility of Being. He had thus 
been a giant, and the letters would triumphantly show 
it. She had looked only at the envelopes of those she 
had surrendered, but she was prepared for anything. 
There was the fact, not to be blinked, of Warren's 
own marked testimony. The attitude of others was 
but his attitude; and she sighed as she found him in 
this case for the only time in his life on the side of the 
chattering crowd. 

She was perfectly aware that her obsession had 
run away with her, but as Lady Northmore's publica- 
tion really loomed into view — it was now definitely 
announced for March, and they were in January — 

208 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

her pulses quickened so that she found herself, in the 
long nights, mostly lying awake. It was in one of 
these vigils that suddenly, in the cold darkness, she 
felt the brush of almost the only thought that for 
many a month hadn't made her wince; the effect 
of which was that she bounded out of bed with a new 
felicity. Her impatience flashed on the spot up to 
its maximum — she could scarce wait for day to give 
herself to action. Her idea was neither more nor less 
than immediately to collect and put forth the letters 
of her hero. She would publish her husband's own — 
glory be to God ! — and she even wasted none of her 
time in wondering why she had waited. She had 
waited — all too long; yet it was perhaps no more 
than natural that, for eyes sealed with tears and a 
heart heavy with injustice, there should n't have 
been an instant vision of where her remedy lay. 
She thought of it already as her remedy — though 
she would probably have found an awkwardness in 
giving a name publicly to her wrong. It was a wrong 
to feel, but doubtless not to talk about. And lo, 
straightway, the balm had begun to drop : the balance 
would so soon be even. She spent all that day in read- 
ing over her own old letters, too intimate and too 
sacred — oh unluckily! — to figure in her project, but 
pouring wind nevertheless into its sails and adding 
greatness to her presumption. She had of course, with 
separation, all their years, never frequent and never 
prolonged, known her husband as a correspondent 
much less than others ; still, these relics constituted a 
property — she was surprised at their number — and 
testified hugely to his inimitable gift. 

209 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

He was a letter-writer if you liked — natural witty 
various vivid, playing with the idlest lightest hand 
up and down the whole scale. His easy power — 
his easy power: everything that brought him back 
brought back that. The most numerous were of 
course the earlier and the series of those during their 
engagement, witnesses of their long probation, which 
were rich and unbroken; so full indeed and so wonder- 
ful that she fairly groaned at having to defer to the 
common measure of married modesty. There was 
discretion, there was usage, there was taste; but she 
would fain have flown in their face. If many were 
pages too intimate to publish, most others were too 
rare to suppress. Perhaps after her death — ! It not 
only pulled her up, the happy thought of that libera- 
tion alike for herself and for her treasure, making 
her promise herself straightway to arrange : it quite 
re-emphasised her impatience for the term of her 
mortality, which would leave a free field to the justice 
she invoked. Her great resource, however, clearly, 
would be the friends, the colleagues, the private ad- 
mirers to whom he had written for years, to whom 
she had known him to write, and many of whose own 
letters, by no means remarkable, she had come upon 
in her recent sortings and siftings. She drew up a list 
of these persons and immediately wrote to them or, 
in cases in which they had passed away, to their 
widows, children, representatives; reminding herself 
in the process not disagreeably, in fact quite inspir- 
ingly, of Lady Northmore in person. It had struck 
her that Lady Northmore in person took somehow 
a good deal for granted; but this idea failed, oddly 

210 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

enough, to occur to her in regard to Mrs. Hope. 
It was indeed with her ladyship she began, addressing 
her exactly in the terms of the noble widow's own 
appeal, every word of which she recalled. 

Then she waited, but she had not, in connexion 
with that quarter, to wait long. "Dear Mrs. Hope, 
I have hunted high and low and have found nothing 
whatever. My husband evidently before his death 
destroyed everything. I 'm so sorry — I should have 
liked so much to help you. Yours most truly." This 
was all Lady Northmore wrote, without the grace 
of an allusion to the assistance she herself had re- 
ceived ; though even in the first flush of amazement 
and resentment our friend recognised the odd identity 
of form between her note and another that had never 
been written. She was answered as she had,in the like 
case and in her one evil hour, dreamed of answering. 
But the answer was n't over with this — it had still 
to flow in, day after day, from every other source 
reached by her question. And day after day, while 
amazement and resentment deepened, it consisted 
simply of three lines of regret. Everybody had looked, 
and everybody had looked in vain. Everybody would 
have been so glad, but everybody was reduced to 
being, like Lady Northmore, so sorry. Nobody could 
find anything, and nothing, it was therefore to be 
gathered, had been kept. Some of these informants 
were more prompt than others, but all replied in time, 
and the business went on for a month, at the end of 
which the poor woman, stricken, chilled to the heart, 
accepted perforce her situation and turned her face 
to the wall. In this position, as it were, she remained 

211 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

for days, taking heed of nothing and only feeling and 
nursing her wound. It was a wound the more cruel 
for having found her so unguarded. From the mo- 
ment her remedy had glimmered to her she had n't 
had an hour of doubt, and the beautiful side of it 
had seemed that it was just so easy. The strangeness 
of the issue was even greater than the pain. Truly 
it was a world pour rire, the world in which John 
Northmore's letters were classed and labelled for 
posterity and Warren Hope's helped housemaids to 
light fires. All sense, all measure of anything, could 
only leave one — leave one indifferent and dumb. 
There was nothing to be done — the show was up- 
side-down. John Northmore was immortal and 
Warren Hope was damned. For herself, therefore, 
she was finished. She was beaten. She leaned thus, 
motionless, muffled, for a time of which, as I say, she 
took no account; then at last she was reached by a 
great sound that made her turn her veiled head. 
It was the report of the appearance of Lady North- 
more's volumes. 



IV 

This filled the air indeed, and all the papers that day 
were particularly loud with it. It met the reader on 
the threshold and then within, the work everywhere 
the subject of a "leader " as well as of a review. The 
reviews moreover, she saw at a glance, overflowed 
with quotation; to look at two or three sheets was 
to judge fairly of the raptures. Mrs. Hope looked at 
the two or three that, for confirmation of the single 
one she habitually received, she caused, while at 
breakfast, to be purchased; but her attention failed 
to penetrate further : she could n't, she found, face 
the contrast between the pride of the Northmores on 
such a morning and her own humiliation. The papers 
brought it too sharply home; she pushed them away 
and, to get rid of them, not to feel their presence, left 
the house early. She found pretexts for remaining out ; 
there had been a cup prescribed for her to drain, yet 
she could put oflF the hour of the ordeal. She filled the 
time as she might; bought things, in shops, for which 
she had no use, and called on friends for whom she 
had no taste. Most of her friends at present were 
reduced to that category, and she had to choose 
for visits the houses guiltless, as she might have said, 
of her husband's blood. She could n't speak to the 
people who had answered in such dreadful terms 
her late circular; on the other hand the people out 
of its range were such as would also be stolidly un- 

213 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

conscious of Lady Northmore's publication and from 
whom the sop of sympathy could be but circuitously 
extracted. As she had lunched at a pastry-cook's so 
she stopped out to tea, and the March dusk had 
fallen when she got home. The first thing she then 
saw in her lighted hall was a large neat package on 
the table ; whereupon she knew before approaching it 
that Lady Northmore had sent her the book. It had 
arrived, she learned, just after her going out; so that, 
had she not done this, she might have spent the day 
with it. She now quite understood her prompt in- 
stinct of flight. Well, flight had helped her, and the 
touch of the great indifferent general life. She would 
at last face the music. 

She faced it, after dinner, in her little closed draw- 
ing-room, unwrapping the two volumes — The Public 
and Private Correspondence of the Right Honourable 
tsfc, bfc. — and looking well, first, at the great es- 
cutcheon on the purple cover and at the various por- 
traits within, so numerous that wherever she opened 
she came on one. It had n't been present to her 
before that he was so perpetually "sitting," but he 
figured in every phase and in every style, while the 
gallery was further enriched with views of his suc- 
cessive residences, each one a little grander than the 
last. She had ever, in general, found that in portraits, 
whether of the known or the obscure, the eyes seemed 
to seek and to meet her own; but John Northmore 
everywhere looked straight away from her, quite as if 
he had been in the room and were unconscious of 
acquaintance. The effect of this was, oddly enough, 
so sharp that at the end of ten minutes she felt her- 

214 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

self sink into his text as if she had been a stranger 
beholden, vulgarly and accidentally, to one of the 
libraries. She had been afraid to plunge, but from 
the moment she got in she was — to do every one all 
round justice — thoroughly held. Sitting there late 
she made so many reflexions and discoveries that — 
as the only way to put it — she passed from mysti- 
fication to stupefaction. Her own offered series 
figured practically entire; she had counted Warren's 
letters before sending them and noted now that scarce 
a dozen were absent — a circumstance explaining 
to her Lady Northmore's courtesy. It was to these 
pages she had turned first, and it was as she hung 
over them that her stupefaction dawned. It took in 
truth at the outset a particular form — the form of a 
sharpened wonder at Warren's unnatural piety. Her 
original surprise had been keen — when she had tried 
to take reasons for granted ; but her original surprise 
was as nothing to her actual bewilderment. The let- 
ters to Warren had been virtually, she judged, for the 
family, the great card; yet if the great card made only 
that figure what on earth was one to think of the rest 
of the pack ? 

She pressed on at random and with a sense of rising 
fever; she trembled, almost panting, not to be sure 
too soon; but wherever she turned she found the 
prodigy spread. The letters to Warren were an abyss 
of inanity; the others followed suit as they could; 
the book was surely then a gaping void, the publica- 
tion a theme for mirth. She so lost herself in uplift- 
ing visions as her perception of the scale of the mis- 
take deepened that toward eleven o'clock, when her 

215 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

parlour-maid opened the door, she almost gave the 
start of guilt surprised. The girl, withdrawing for the 
night, had come but to mention that, and her mis- 
tress, supremely wide awake and with remembrance 
kindled, appealed to her, after a blank stare, with 
intensity. "What have you done with the papers ?" 

"The papers, ma'am?" 

"All those of this morning — don't tell me you've 
destroyed them ! Quick, quick — bring them back." 

The young woman, by a rare chance, had n't de- 
stroyed the public prints; she presently reappeared 
with them neatly folded; and Mrs. Hope, dismissing 
her with benedictions, had at last in a few minutes 
taken the time of day. She saw her impression por- 
tentously reflected in the long grey columns. It 
was n't then the illusion of her jealousy — it was the 
triumph, unhoped for, of her justice. The reviewers 
observed a decorum, but frankly, when one came to 
look, their stupefaction matched her own. What she 
had taken in the morning for enthusiasm proved mere 
perfunctory attention, unwarned in advance and 
seeking an issue for its mystification. The question 
was, if one liked, asked civilly, yet asked none the 
less all round: "What could have made Lord North- 
more's family take him for a letter-writer ? " Pompous 
and ponderous and at the same time loose and ob- 
scure, he managed by a trick of his own to be both 
slipshod and stilF. Who in such a case had been 
primarily responsible and under what strangely be- 
lated advice had a group of persons destitute of wit 
themselves been thus deplorably led astray ? With 
fewer accomplices in the preparation it might almost 

216 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

have been assumed that they had been designedly 
befooled, been elaborately trapped. 

They had at all events committed an error of which 
the most merciful thing to say was that, as founded 
on loyalty, it was touching. These things, in the 
welcome offered, lay perhaps not quite on the face, 
but they peeped between the lines and would force 
their way through on the morrow. The long quota- 
tions given were quotations marked Why ? — "Why," 
in other words, as interpreted by Mrs. Hope, "drag 
to light such helplessness of expression ? why give 
the text of his dulness and the proof of his fatuity ? " 
The victim of the error had certainly been, in his way 
and day, a useful and remarkable person, but almost 
any other evidence of the fact might more happily 
have been adduced. It rolled over her, as she paced 
her room in the small hours, that the wheel had 
come full circle. There was after all a rough justice. 
The monument that had overdarkened her was 
reared, but it would be within a week the opportunity 
of every humourist, the derision of intelligent London. 
Her husband's strange share in it continued, that 
night, between dreams and vigils, to puzzle her, but 
light broke with her final waking, which was com- 
fortably late. She opened her eyes to it and, on its star- 
ing straight into them, greeted it with the first laugh 
that had for a long time passed her lips. How could 
she idiotically not have guessed ? Warren, playing 
insidiously the part of a guardian, had done what 
he had done on purpose! He had acted to an end 
long foretasted, and the end — the full taste — had 
come. 



It was after this, none the less — after the other 
organs of criticism, including the smoking-rooms of 
the clubs, the lobbies of the House and the dinner- 
tables of everywhere, had duly embodied their 
reserves and vented their irreverence, and the unfor- 
tunate two volumes had ranged themselves, beyond 
appeal, as a novelty insufficiently curious and prema- 
turely stale — it was when this had come to pass that 
she really felt how beautiful her own chance would 
now have been and how sweet her revenge. The suc- 
cess of her volumes, for the inevitability of which no- 
body had had an instinct, would have been as great 
as the failure of Lady Northmore's, for the inevit- 
ability of which everybody had had one. She read 
over and over her letters and asked herself afresh 
if the confidence that had preserved them might n't, 
at such a crisis, in spite of everything, justify itself. 
Did n't the discredit to English wit, as it were, pro- 
ceeding from the uncorrected attribution to an es- 
tablished public character of such mediocrity of 
thought and form, really demand, for that matter, 
some such redemptive stroke as the appearance of a 
collection of masterpieces gathered from a similar 
walk .? To have such a collection under one's hand 
and yet sit and see one's self not use it was a torment 
through which she might well have feared to break 
down. 

218 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

But there was another thing she might do, not 
redemptive indeed, but perhaps after all, as matters 
were going, relevant. She fished out of their nook, 
after long years, the packet of John Northmore's 
epistles to herself and, reading them over in the light 
of his later style, judged them to contain to the full 
the promise of that inimitability; felt how they would 
deepen the impression and how, in the way of the 
inedit, they constituted her supreme treasure. There 
was accordingly a terrible week for her in which she 
itched to put them forth. She composed mentally 
the preface, brief, sweet, ironic, presenting her as 
prompted by an anxious sense of duty to a great re- 
putation and acting upon the sight of laurels so lately 
gathered. There would naturally be difficulties; the 
documents were her own, but the family, bewild- 
ered, scared, suspicious, figured to her fancy as a 
dog with a dust-pan tied to its tail and ready for 
any dash to cover at the sound of the clatter of tin. 
They would have, she surmised, to be consulted, or, 
if not consulted, would put in an injunction ; yet, of 
the two courses, that of scandal braved for the man 
she had rejected drew her on, while the charm of 
this vision worked, still further than that of delicacy 
over-ridden for the man she had married. 

The vision closed round her and she lingered on 
the idea — fed, as she handled again her faded fat 
packet, by re-perusals more richly convinced. She 
even took opinions as to the interference open to her 
old friend's relatives; took in fact, from this time 
on, many opinions; went out anew, picked up old 
threads, repaired old ruptures, resumed, as it was 

219 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

called, her place in society. She had not been for 
years so seen of men as during the few weeks that 
followed the abasement of the Northmores. She 
called in particular on every one she had cast out 
: after the failure of her appeal. Many of these persons 
figured as Lady Northmore's contributors, the un- 
witting agents of the cruel exposure; they having, 
it was sufficiently clear, acted in dense good faith. 
Warren, foreseeing and calculating, might have the 
benefit of such subtlety, but it was n't for any one 
else. With every one else — for they did, on facing 
her, as she said to herself, look like fools — she made 
inordinately free; putting right and left the question 
of what in the past years they or their progenitors 
could have been thinking of. "What on earth had 
you in mind and where among you were the rudi- 
ments of intelligence when you burnt up my hus- 
band's priceless letters and clung as for salvation to 
Lord Northmore's ? You see how you 've been saved ! " 
The weak explanations, the imbecility, as she judged 
it, of the reasons given, were so much balm to her 
wound. The great balm, however, she kept to the 
last : she would go to see Lady Northmore only when 
she had exhausted all other comfort. That resource 
would be as supreme as the treasure of the fat packet. 
She finally went and, by a happy chance, if chance 
could ever be happy in such a house, was received. 
She remained half an hour — there were other per- 
sons present; and on rising to go knew herself satis- 
fied. She had taken in what she desired, had sounded 
to the bottom what she saw; only, unexpectedly, some- 
thing had overtaken her more absolute than the 

220 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

hard need she had obeyed or the vindictive advant- 
age she had cherished. She had counted on herself 
for anything rather than pity of these people, yet 
it was in pity that at the end of ten minutes she felt 
everything else dissolve. 

They were suddenly, on the spot, transformed for 
her by the depth of their misfortune, and she saw 
them, the great Northmores, as — of all things — 
consciously weak and flat. She neither made nor 
encountered an allusion to volumes published or 
frustrated ; and so let her arranged enquiry die away 
that when on separation she kissed her wan sister 
in widowhood it was not with the kiss of Judas. 
She had meant to ask lightly if she might n't have 
her turn at editing; but the renunciation with which 
she re-entered her house had formed itself before she 
left the room. When she got home indeed she at first 
only wept — wept for the commonness of failure and 
the strangeness of life. Her tears perhaps brought 
her a sense of philosophy ; it was all so as broad as it 
was long. When they were spent, at all events, she 
took out for the last time the faded fat packet. Sitting 
down by a receptacle daily emptied for the benefit 
of the dustman, she destroyed one by one the gems 
of the collection in which each piece had been a gem. 
She tore up to the last scrap Lord Northmore's letters. 
It would never be known now, as regards this series, 
either that they had been hoarded or that they had 
been sacrificed. And she was content so to let it rest. 
On the following day she began another task. She 
took out her husband's and attacked the business of 
transcription. She copied them piously, tenderly, 

221 



THE ABASEMENT OF THE NORTHMORES 

and, for the purpose to which she now found herself 
settled, judged almost no omissions imperative. By 
the time they should be published — ! She shook her 
head, both knowingly and resignedly, as to criticism 
so remote. When her transcript was finished she sent 
it to a printer to set up, and then, after receiving and 
correcting proof, and with every precaution for 
secrecy, had a single copy struck off and the type 
dispersed under her eyes. Her last act but one — 
or rather perhaps but two — was to put these sheets, 
which, she was pleased to find, would form a volume 
of three hundred pages, carefully away. Her next 
was to add to her testamentary instrument a definite 
provision for the issue, after her death, of such a 
volume. Her last was to hope that death would come 
in time. 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

I 

George Dane had opened his eyes to a bright new 
day, the face of nature well washed by last night's 
downpour and shining as with high spirits, good 
resolutions, lively intentions — the great glare of re- 
commencement in short fixed in his patch of sky. 
He had sat up late to finish work — arrears over- 
whelming, then at last had gone to bed with the pile 
but little reduced. He was now to return to it after 
the pause of the night; but he could only look at it, 
for the time, over the bristling hedge of letters planted 
by the early postman an hour before and already, on 
the customary table by the chimney-piece, formally 
rounded and squared by his systematic servant. It 
was something too merciless, the domestic perfection 
of Brown. There were newspapers on another table, 
ranged with the same rigour of custom, newspapers 
too many — what could any creature want of so much 
news ? — and each with its hand on the neck of the 
other, so that the row of their bodiless heads was like 
a series of decapitations. Other journals, other peri- 
odicals of every sort, folded and in wrappers, made 
a huddled mound that had been growing for several 
days and of which he had been wearily, helplessly 
aware. There were new books, also in wrappers as 
well as disenveloped and dropped again — books from ^ 

225 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE _ 

publishers, books from authors, books from friends, 
books from enemies, books from his own bookseller, 
who took, it sometimes struck him, inconceivable 
things for granted. He touched nothing, approached 
nothing, only turned a heavy eye over the work, as 
it were, of the night — the fact, in his high wide- 
windowed room, where duty shed its hard light 
into every corner, of the still unashamed admonitions. 
It was the old rising tide, and it rose and rose 
even under a minute's watching. It had been up 
to his shoulders last night — it was up to his chin 
now. 

Nothing had gone, had passed on while he slept — 
everything had stayed; nothing, that he could yet feel, 
had died — so naturally, one would have thought; 
many things on the contrary had been born. To let 
them alone, these things, the new things, let them 
utterly alone and see if that, by chance, would n't 
somehow prove the best way to deal with them : this 
fancy brushed his face for a moment as a possible 
solution, just giving it, as so often before, a cool 
wave of air. Then he knew again as well as ever that 
leaving was difficult, leaving impossible — that the 
only remedy, the true soft effacing sponge, would 
be to he left, to be forgotten. There was no footing 
on which a man who had ever liked life — liked it at 
any rate as he had — could now escape it. He must 
reap as he had sown. It was a thing of meshes ; he had 
simply gone to sleep under the net and had simply 
waked up there. The net was too fine; the cords 
crossed each other at spots too near together, making 
at each a little tight hard knot that tired fingers were 

226 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

this morning too limp and too tender to touch. Our 
poor friend's touched nothing — only stole signi- 
ficantly into his pockets as he wandered over to the 
window and faintly gasped at the energy of nature. 
What was most overwhelming was that she herself 
was so ready. She had soothed him rather, the night 
before, in the small hours by the lamp. From behind 
the drawn curtain of his study the rain had been aud- 
ible and in a manner merciful ; washing the window 
in a steady flood, It had seemed the right thing, the 
retarding interrupting thing, the thing that, if it 
would only last, might clear the ground by floating 
out to a boundless sea the innumerable objects among 
which his feet stumbled and strayed. He had pos- 
itively laid down his pen as on a sense of friendly 
pressure from it. The kind full swish had been 
on the glass when he turned out his lamp; he had 
left his phrase unfinished and his papers lying quite 
as for the flood to bear them away in its rush. But 
there still on the table were the bare bones of the 
sentence — and not all of those ; the single thing 
borne away and that he could never recover was the 
missing half that might have paired with it and be- 
gotten a figure. 

Yet he could at last only turn back from the win- 
dow; the world was everywhere, without and within, 
and the great staring egotism of its health and strength 
was n't to be trusted for tact or delicacy. He faced 
about precisely to meet his servant and the absurd 
solemnity of two telegrams on a tray. Brown ought 
to have kicked them into the room — then he himself 
might have kicked them out. 

227 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

"And you told me to remind you, sir — " 

George Dane was at last angry. "Remind me of 
nothing ! " 

" But you insisted, sir, that I was to insist ! " 

He turned away in despair, using a pathetic quaver 
at absurd variance with his words : " If you insist, 
Brown, I 'II kill you ! " He found himself anew at the 
window, whence, looking down from his fourth floor, 
he could see the vast neighbourhood, under the 
trumpet-blare of the sky, beginning to rush about. 
There was a silence, but he knew Brown had n't left 
him — knew exactly how straight and serious and 
stupid and faithful he stood there. After a minute 
he heard him again. 

"It's only because, sir, you know, sir, you can't 
remember — " 

At this Dane did flash round; it was more than at 
such a moment he could bear. "Can't remember, 
Brown? I can't forget. That's what's the matter 
with me." 

Brown looked at him with the advantage of eight- 
een years of consistency. "I'm afraid you're not 
well, sir." 

Brown's master thought. "It's a shocking thing 
to say, but I wish to heaven I were n't ! It would be 
perhaps an excuse." 

Brown's blankness spread like the desert. "To put 
them off?" 

"Ah!" The sound was a groan; the plural pro- 
noun, any pronoun, so mistimed. "Who is it.?" 

"Those ladies you spoke of — to luncheon." 

"Oh!" The poor man dropped into the nearest 
228 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

chair and stared a while at the carpet. It was very 
complicated. 

"How many will there be, sir?" Brown asked. 

"Fifty!" 

"Fifty, sir?" 

Our friend, from his chair, looked vaguely about; 
under his hand were the telegrams, still unopened, 
one of which he now tore asunder. " ' Do hope you 
sweetly won't mind, to-day, 1.30, my bringing poor 
dear Lady Mullet, who 's so awfully bent,' " he read 
to his companion. 

His companion weighed it. "How many does she 
make, sir?" 

"Poor dear Lady Mullet? I haven't the least 
idea." 

" Is she — a — deformed, sir ? " Brown enquired, 
as if in this case she might make more. 

His master wondered, then saw he figured some 
personal curvature. "No; she's only bent on com- 
ing!" Dane opened the other telegram and again 
read out: "'So sorry it's at eleventh hour impossible, 
and count on you here, as very greatest favour, at two 
sharp instead.'" 

"How many does that make?" Brown imperturb- 
ably continued. 

Dane crumpled up the two missives and walked 
with them to the waste-paper basket, into which he 
thoughtfully dropped them. "I can't say. You must 
do it all yourself. I shan't be there." 

It was only on this that Brown showed an expres- 
sion. "You'll go instead — " 

" I '11 go instead ! " Dane raved. 
229 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

Brown, however, had had occasion to show before 
that he would never desert their post. " Is n't that 
rather sacrificing the three ? " Between respect and 
reproach he paused. 

"Are there three?" 

"I lay for four in all." 

His master had at any rate caught his thought. 
" Sacrificing the three to the one, you mean ? Oh 
I'm not going to her!" 

Brown's famous "thoroughness" — his great virtue 
— had never been so dreadful. "Then where are you 
going?" 

Dane sat down to his table and stared at his ragged 
phrase. " ' There is a happy land — far far away ! ' " 
He chanted it like a sick child and knew that for a 
minute Brown never moved. During this minute he 
felt between his shoulders the gimlet of criticism. 

"Are you quite sure you're all right?" 

"It's my certainty that overwhelms me, Brown. 
Look about you and judge. Could anything be more 
'right,' in the view of the envious world, than every- 
thing that surrounds us here : that immense array of 
letters, notes, circulars ; that pile of printers' proofs, 
magazines and books; these perpetual telegrams, 
these impending guests, this retarded, unfinished 
and interminable work ? What could a man want 
more ? " 

" Do you mean there 's too much, sir ? " — Brown 
had sometimes these flashes. 

"There's too much. There's too much. But you 
can't help it, Brown." 

"No, sir," Brown assented. "Can't you?" 
230 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

" I 'm thinking — I must see. There are hours — ! " 
Yes, there were hours, and this was one of them : he 
jerked himself up for another turn in his labyrinth, 
but still not touching, not even again meeting, his 
admonisher's eye. If he was a genius for any one he 
was a genius for Brown ; but it was terrible what that 
meant, being a genius for Brown. There had been 
times when he had done full justice to the way it kept 
him up ; now, however, it was almost the worst of the 
avalanche. "Don't trouble about me," he went on 
insincerely and looking askance through his window 
again at the bright and beautiful world. "Perhaps 
it will rain — that may not be over. I do love the 
rain," he weakly pursued. "Perhaps, better still, it 
will snow." 

Brown now had indeed a perceptible expression, 
and the expression was of fear. "Snow, sir — the end 
of May .? " Without pressing this point he looked at 
his watch. "You'll feel better when you've had 
breakfast." 

" I dare say," said Dane, whom breakfast struck in 
fact as a pleasant alternative to opening letters. " I 'II 
come in immediately." 

" But without waiting — ? " 

"Waiting for what?" 

Brown at last, under his apprehension, had his 
first lapse from logic, which he betrayed by hesitating 
in the evident hope his companion might by a flash 
of remembrance relieve him of an invidious duty. 
But the only flashes now were the good man's own. 
"You say you can't forget, sir; but you do forget — " 
( "Is it anything very horrible ?" Dane broke in. 

231 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

Brown hung fire. "Only the gentleman you told 
me you had asked — " 

Dane again took him up; horrible or not it came 
back — indeed its mere coming back classed it. "To 
breakfast to-day? It was to-day; I see." It came 
back, yes, came back; the appointment with the 
young man — he supposed him young — whose letter, 
the letter about — what was it ? — had struck him. 
"Yes, yes; wait, wait." 

"Perhaps he'll do you good, sir," Brown suggested. 

"Sure to — sure to. All right!" Whatever he 
might do he would at least prevent some other doing: 
that was present to our friend as, on the vibration 
of the electric bell at the door of the flat, Brown 
moved away. Two things in the short interval that 
followed were present to Dane: his having utterly 
forgotten the connexion, the whence, whither and 
why of his guest; and his continued disposition not 
to touch — no, not with the finger. Ah if he might 
never again touch! All the unbroken seals and 
neglected appeals lay there while, for a pause he 
could n't measure, he stood before the chimney-piece 
with his hands still in his pockets. He heard a brief 
exchange of words in the hall, but never afterwards 
recovered the time taken by Brown to reappear, to 
precede and announce another person — a person 
whose name somehow failed to reach Dane's ear. 
Brown went off again to serve breakfast, leaving host 
and guest confronted. The duration of this first stage 
also, later on, defied measurement; but that little 
mattered, for in the train of what happened came 
promptly the second, the third, the fourth, the rich 

232 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

succession of the others. Yet what happened was 
but that Dane took his hand from his pocket, held it 
straight out and felt it taken. Thus indeed, if he had 
wanted never again to touch, it was already done. 



n 

He might have been a week in the place — the scene 
of his new consciousness — before he spoke at all. 
The occasion of it then was that one of the quiet 
figures he had been idly watching drew at last nearer 
and showed him a face that was the highest expres- 
sion — to his pleased but as yet slightly confused 
perception — of the general charm. What was the 
general charm ? He could n't, for that matter, easily 
have phrased it; it was such an abyss of negatives, 
such an absence of positives and of everything. The 
oddity was that after a minute he was struck as by the 
reflexion of his own very image in this first converser 
seated with him, on the easy bench, under the high 
clear portico and above the wide far-reaching garden, 
where the things that most showed in the greenness 
were the surface of still water and the white note of 
old statues. The absence of everything was, in the 
aspect of the Brother who had thus informally joined 
him — a man of his own age, tired distinguished 
modest kind — really, as he could soon see, but the 
absence of what he did n't want. He did n't want, for 
the time, anything but just to he there, to steep in the 
bath. He was in the bath yet, the broad deep bath 
of stillness. They sat in it together now with the 
water up to their chins. He had n't had to talk, he 
had n't had to think, he had scarce even had to feel. 
He had been sunk that way before, sunk — when and 

234 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

where ? — In another flood ; only a flood of rushing 
waters in which bumping and gasping were all. This 
was a current so slow and so tepid that one floated 
practically without motion and without chill. The 
break of silence was not immediate, though Dane 
seemed indeed to feel it begin before a sound passed. 
It could pass quite sufiiciently without words that 
he and his mate were Brothers, and what that 
meant. 

He wondered, but with no want of ease — for want 
of ease was impossible — if his friend found in him 
the same likeness, the proof of peace, the gage of 
what the place could do. The long afternoon crept 
to its end ; the shadows fell further and the sky glowed 
deeper ; but nothing changed — nothing could change 
— in the element itself. It was a conscious security. 
It was wonderful ! Dane had lived into it, but he was 
still immensely aware. He would have been sorry 
to lose that, for just this fact as yet, the blest fact of 
consciousness, seemed the greatest thing of all. Its 
only fault was that, being in itself such an occupation, 
so fine an unrest in the heart of gratitude, the life of 
the day all went to it. But what even then was the 
harm ? He had come only to come, to take what he 
found. This was the part where the great cloister, 
enclosed externally on three sides and probably the 
largest lightest fairest effect, to his charmed sense, 
that human hands could ever have expressed in 
dimensions of length and breadth, opened to the 
south its splendid fourth quarter, turned to the great 
view an outer gallery that combined with the rest of 
the portico to form a high dry loggia, such as he a 

235 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

little pretended to himself he had, in the Italy of old 
days, seen in old cities, old convents, old villas. This 
recalled disposition of some great abode of an Order, 
some mild Monte Cassino, some Grande Chartreuse 
more accessible, vpas his main term of comparison; 
but he knew he had really never anywhere beheld 
anything at once so calculated and so generous. 

Three impressions in particular had been with him 
all the week, and he could but recognise in silence 
their happy effect on his nerves. How it was all man- 
aged he could n't have told — he had been content 
moreover till now with his ignorance of cause and 
pretext ; but whenever he chose to listen with a certain 
intentness he made out as from a distance the sound 
of slow sweet bells. How could they be so far and yet 
so audible ? , How could they be so near and yet so 
faint? How above all could they, in such an arrest 
of life, be, to time things, so frequent ? The very 
essence of the bliss of Dane's whole change had been 
precisely that there was nothing now to time. It was 
the same with the slow footsteps that, always within 
earshot to the vague attention, marked the space and 
the leisure, seemed, in long cool arcades, lightly to 
fall and perpetually to recede. This was the second 
impression, and it melted into the third, as, for that 
matter, every form of softness, in the great good place, 
was but a further turn, without jerk or gap, of the 
endless roll of serenity. The quiet footsteps were 
quiet figures; the quiet figures that, to the eye, kept 
the picture human and brought its perfection within 
reach. This perfection, he felt on the bench by his 
friend, was now more within reach than ever. His 

236 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

friend at last turned to him a look different from the 
looks of friends in London clubs. 

"The thing was to find it out!" 

It was extraordinary how this remark fitted into 
his thought. "Ah was n't it ? And when I think," 
said Dane, "of all the people who have n't and who 
never will ! " He sighed over these unfortunates with 
a tenderness that, in its degree, was practically new 
to him, feeling too how well his companion would 
know the people he meant. He only meant some, but 
they were all who'd want it; though of these, no 
doubt — well, for reasons, for things that, in the 
world, he had observed — there would never be too 
many. Not all perhaps who wanted would really find ; 
but none at least would find who did n't really want. 
And then what the need would have to have been 
first ! What it at first had had to be for himself! He 
felt afresh, in the light of his companion's face, what 
it might still be even when deeply satisfied, as well as 
what communication was established by the mere 
common knowledge of it. 

"Every man must arrive by himself and on his 
own feet — is n't that so ? We 're Brothers here for 
the time, as in a great monastery, and we immediately 
think of each other and recognise each other as such ; 
but we must have first got here as we can, and we 
meet after long journeys by complicated ways. More- 
over we meet — don't we .? — with closed eyes." 

"Ah don't speak as if we were dead!" Dane 
laughed. 

"I shan't mind death if it's like this," his friend 
replied. 

237 



»» 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

It was too obvious, as Dane gazed before him, that 
one would n't; but after a moment he asked with 
the first articulation as yet of his most elementary 
wonder: "Where is it?" 

" I should n't be surprised if it were much nearer 
than one ever suspected." 

"Nearer 'town,' do you mean ?" 

" Nearer everything — nearer every one 

George Dane thought. "Would it be somewhere 
for instance down in Surrey ? " 

His Brother met him on this with a shade of reluct- 
ance. "Why should we call it names ? It must have 
a climate, you see." 

"Yes," Dane happily mused; "without that — !" 
All it so securely did have overwhelmed him again, 
and he could n't help breaking out : " What is it ? " 

"Oh it's positively a part of our ease and our rest 
and our change, I think, that we don't at all know 
and that we may really call it, for that matter, any- 
thing in the world we Hke — the thing for instance 
we love it most for being." 

"I know what / call it," said Dane after a moment. 
Then as his friend listened with interest : " Just simply 
The Great Good Place.'" 

" I see — what can you say more ? I 've put it to 
myself perhaps a little differently." They sat there 
as innocently as small boys confiding to each other 
the names of toy animals. "'The Great Want 
Met.'" 

"Ah yes — that 'sit!" 

" Is n't it enough for us that it *s a place carried on 
for our benefit so admirably that we strain our ears 

238 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

in vain for a creak of the machinery ? Is n't it enough 
for us that it 's simply a thorough hit ? " 

"Ah a hit!" Dane benignantly murmured. 

"It does for us what it pretends to do," his com- 
panion went on ; " the mystery is n't deeper than that. 
The thing's probably simple enough in fact, and on 
a thoroughly practical basis; only it has had its origin 
in a splendid thought, in a real stroke of genius." 

" Yes," Dane returned, " in a sense — on somebody 
or other's part — so exquisitely personal ! " 

"Precisely — it rests, like all good things, on ex- 
perience. The 'great want' comes home — that's 
the great thing it does! On the day it came home 
to the right mind this dear place was constituted. 
It always moreover in the long run has been met — 
it always must be. How can it not require to be, 
more and more, as pressure of every sort grows ? " 

Dane, with his hands folded in his lap, took in 
these words of wisdom. "Pressure of every sort is 
growing ! " he placidly observed. 

"I see well enough what that fact has done to you" 
his Brother declared. 

Dane smiled. "I couldn't have borne it longer. 
I don't know what would have become of me." 

" I know what would have become of me." 

"Well, it's the same thing." 

"Yes," said Dane's companion, "it's doubtless the 
same thing." On which they sat in silence a little, 
seeming pleasantly to follow, in the view of the green 
garden, the vague movements of the monster — mad- 
ness, surrender, collapse — they had escaped. Their 
bench was like a box at the opera. "And I may per- 

239 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

fectly, you know," the Brother pursued, "have seen 
you before. I may even have known you well. We 
don't know." 

They looked at each other again serenely enough, 
and at last Dane said: "No, we don't know." 

"That's what I meant by our coming with our 
eyes closed. Yes — there 's something out. There 's 
a gap, a link missing, the great hiatus ! " the Brother 
laughed. "It's as simple a story as the old, old 
rupture — the break that lucky Catholics have always 
been able to make, that they're still, with their in- 
numerable religious houses, able to make, by going 
into 'retreat.' I don't speak of the pious exercises 
— I speak only of the material simplification. I don't 
speak of the putting off of one's self; I speak only — 
if one has a self worth sixpence — of the getting it 
back. The place, the time, the way were, for those 
of the old persuasion, always there — are indeed 
practically there for them as much as ever. They 
can always get off — the blessed houses receive. So 
it was high time that we — we of the great Protestant 
peoples, still more, if possible, in the sensitive indi- 
vidual case, overscored and overwhelmed, still more 
congested with mere quantity and prostituted, through 
our 'enterprise,' to mere profanity — should learn 
how to get off, should find somewhere our retreat and 
remedy. There was such a huge chance for it!" 

Dane laid his hand on his companion's arm. "It's 
charming how when we speak for ourselves we speak 
for each other. That was exactly what I said ! " He 
had fallen to recalling from over the gulf the last 
occasion. 

240 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

The Brother, as if it would do them both good, 
only desired to draw him out. "What you * said ' — ? " 

"To him — that morning." Dane caught a far bell 
again and heard a slow footstep. A quiet presence 
passed somewhere — neither of them turned to look. 
What was little by little more present to him was 
the perfect taste. It was supreme — it was every- 
where. "I just dropped my burden — and he re- 
ceived it." 

"And was it very great?" 

"Oh such a load!" Dane said with gaiety. 

"Trouble, sorrow, doubt?" 

"Oh no — worse than that!" 

"Worse?" 

" ' Success ' — the vulgarest kind ! " He mentioned 
it now as with amusement. 

"Ah I know that too! No one in future, as things 
are going, will be able to face success." 

"Without something of this sort — never. The 
better it is the worse — the greater the deadlier. But 
my one pain here," Dane continued, "is in thinking 
of my poor friend." 

"The person to whom you've already alluded?" 

He tenderly assented. "My substitute in the world. 
Such an unutterable benefactor. He turned up that 
morning when everything had somehow got on my 
nerves, when the whole great globe indeed, nerves or 
no nerves, seemed to have appallingly squeezed itself 
into my study and to be bent on simply swelling there. 
It was n't a question of nerves, it was a mere question 
of the dislodgement and derangement of everything 
— of a general submersion by our eternal too much. 

241 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

I did n't know ou dormer de la tete — I could n't have 
gone a step further." 

The intelligence with which the Brother listened 
kept them as children feeding from the same bowl. 
"And then you got the tip ?" 

"I got the tip!" Dane happily sighed. 

"Well, we all get it. But I dare say differently." 

"Then how did you — V 

The Brother hesitated, smiling. "You tell me first." 



Ill 



"Well," said George Dane, "it was a young man 
I had never seen — a man at any rate much younger 
than myself — who had written to me and sent me 
some article, some book. I read the stuff, was much 
struck with it, told him so and thanked him — on 
which of course I heard from him again. Ah that — ! " 
Dane comically sighed. "He asked me things — his 
questions were interesting; but to save time and writ- 
ing I said to him : ' Come to see me — we can talk a 
little ; but all I can give you is half an hour at break- 
fast.' He arrived to the minute on a day when more 
than ever in my life before I seemed, as it happened, 
in the endless press and stress, to have lost posses- 
sion of my soul and to be surrounded only with the 
affairs of other people, smothered in mere irrelevant 
importunity. It made me literally ill — made me feel 
as I had never felt that should I once really for an 
hour lose hold of the thing itself, the thing that did 
matter and that I was trying for, I should never re- 
cover it again. The wild waters would close over me 
and I should drop straight to the dark depths where 
the vanquished dead lie." 

"I follow you every step of your way," said the 
friendly Brother. "The wild waters, you mean, of 
our horrible time." 

"Of our horrible time precisely. Not of course 
— as we sometimes dream — of any other." 

243 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

"Yes, any other's only a dream. We really know 
none but our own." 

"No,, thank God — that's enough," Dane con- 
tentedly smiled. "Well, my young man turned up, 
and I had n't been a minute in his presence before 
making out that practically it would be in him some- 
how or other to help me. He came to me with envy, 
envy extravagant — really passionate. I was, heaven 
save us, the great * success ' for him ; he himself was 
starved and broken and beaten. How can I say what 
passed between us ? — it was so strange, so swift, 
so much a matter, from one to the other, of instant 
perception and agreement. He was so clever and 
haggard and hungry!" 
[, "Hungry?" the Brother asked. 

"I don't mean for bread, though he had none too 
much, I think, even of that. I mean for — well, what 
/ had and what I was a monument of to him as I 
stood there up to my neck in preposterous evidence. 
He, poor chap, had been for ten years serenading 
closed windows and had never yet caused a shutter 
to show that it stirred. My dim blind was the first 
raised to him an inch; my reading of his book, my 
impression of it, my note and my invitation, formed 
literally the only response ever dropped into his dark 
alley. He saw in my littered room, my shattered 
day, my bored face and spoiled temper — it's embar- 
rassing, but I must tell you — the very proof of my 
pudding, the very blaze of my glory. And he saw in 
my repletion and my 'renown' — deluded innocent! 
— what he had yearned for in vain." 

"What he had yearned for was to be you," said the 
244 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

Brother. Then he added: "I see where you're 
coming out." 

"At my saying to him by the end of five minutes: 
'My dear fellow, I wish you'd just try it — wish 
you 'd for a while just be me ! ' You go straight to 
the mark, good Brother, and that was exactly what 
occurred — extraordinary though it was that we 
should both have understood. I saw what he could 
give, and he did too. He saw moreover what I could 
take; in fact what he saw was wonderful." 

"He must be very remarkable!" Dane's converser 
laughed. 

"There's no doubt of it whatever — far more re- 
markable than I. That's just the reason why what 
I put to him in joke — with a fantastic desperate 
irony — became, in his hands, with his vision of his 
chance, the blessed means and measure of my sitting 
on this spot in your company. 'Oh if I could just 
shift it all — make it straight over for an hour to 
other shoulders ! If there only were a pair ! ' — that 's 
the way I put it to him. And then at something in 
his face, 'Would you, by a miracle, undertake it?' 
I asked. I let him know all it meant — how it meant 
that he should at that very moment step in. It meant 
that he should finish my work and open my letters 
and keep my engagements and be subject, for better 
or worse, to my contacts and complications. It meant 
that he should live with my life and think with my 
brain and write with my hand and speak with my 
voice. It meant above all that I should get off. He 
accepted with greatness — rose to it like a hero. 
Only he said : 'What will become o( you?'" 

245 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

"There was the rub!" the Brother admitted, 
"Ah but only for a minute. He came to my help 
again," Dane pursued, "when he saw I could n't 
quite meet that, could at least only say that I wanted 
to think, wanted to cease, wanted to do the thing itself 
— the thing that mattered and that I was trying for, 
miserable me, and that thing only — and therefore 
wanted first of all really to see it again, planted out, 
crowded out, frozen out as it now so long had been. 

* I know what you want,' he after a moment quietly 
remarked to me. *Ah what I want doesn't exist!' 

* I know what you want,' he repeated. At that I began 
to believe him." 

" Had you any idea yourself ? " the Brother's atten- 
tion breathed. 

" Oh yes," said Dane, " and it was just my idea that 
made me despair. There it was as sharp as possible 
in my imagination and my longing — there it was so 
utterly not in the fact. We were sitting together on my 
sofa as we waited for breakfast. He presently laid his 
hand on my knee — showed me a face that the sudden 
great light in it had made, for me, indescribably 
beautiful. 'It exists — it exists,' he at last said. 
And so I remember we sat a while and looked at each 
other, with the final effect of my finding that I ab- 
solutely believed him. I remember we were n't at 
all solemn — we smiled with the joy of discoverers. 
He was as glad as I — he was tremendously glad. 
That came out in the whole manner of his reply 
to the appeal that broke from me: 'Where is it 
then in God's name ? Tell me without delay where 



It is!'" 



246 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

The Brother had bent such a sympathy! "He 
gave you the address ? " 

"He was thinking it out — feeling for it, catching 
it. He has a wonderful head of his own and must 
be making of the whole thing, while we sit here patch- 
ing and gossiping, something much better than ever 
/ did. The mere sight of his face, the sense of his 
hand on my knee, made me, after a little, feel that he 
not only knew what I wanted but was getting nearer 
to it than I could have got in ten years. He suddenly 
sprang up and went over to my study-table — sat 
straight down there as if to write me my prescription 
or my passport. Then it was — at the mere sight of 
his back, which was turned to me — that I felt the 
spell work. I simply sat and watched him with 
the queerest deepest sweetest sense in the world 
— the sense of an ache that had stopped. All life 
was lifted; I myself at least was somehow off the 
ground. He was already where I had been." 

"And where were you?" the Brother amusedly 
asked. 

"Just on the sofa always, leaning back on the 
cushion and feeling a delicious ease. He was already 
me." 

"And who were you?" the Brother continued. 

"Nobody. That was the fun." 

"That is the fun," said the Brother with a sigh like 
soft music. 

Dane echoed the sigh, and, as nobody talking with 
nobody, they sat there together still and watched the 
sweet wide picture darken into tepid night. 



IV 

At the end of three -weeks — so far as time was dis- 
tinct — Dane began to feel there was something he 
had recovered. It was the thing they never named 
— partly for want of the need and partly for lack of 
the word ; for what indeed was the description that 
would cover it all ? The only real need was to know 
it, to see it in silence. Dane had a private practical 
sign for it, which, however, he had appropriated by 
theft — "the vision and the faculty divine." That 
doubtless was a flattering phrase for his idea of his 
genius; the genius was at all events what he had 
been in danger of losing and had at last held by a 
thread that might at any moment have broken. The 
change was that little by little his hold had grown 
firmer, so that he drew in the line — more and more 
each day — with a pull he was delighted to find 
it would bear. The mere dream-sweemess of the 
place was superseded ; it was more and more a world 
of reason and order, of sensible visible arrangement. 
It ceased to be strange — it was high triumphant 
clearness. He cultivated, however, but vaguely the 
question of where he was, finding it near enough the 
mark to be almost sure that if he was n't in Kent 
he was then probably in Hampshire. He paid for 
everything but that — that was n't one of the items. 
Payment, he had soon learned, was definite; it con- 
sisted of sovereigns and shillings — just like those of 

248 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

the world he had left, only parted with more ecstat- 
ically — that he committed, in his room, to a fixed 
receptacle and that were removed in his absence by 
one of the unobtrusive effaced agents (shadows pro- 
jected on the hours like the noiseless march of the 
sundial) that were always at work. The scene had 
whole sides that reminded and resembled, and a 
pleased resigned perception of these things was at 
once the effect and the cause of its grace. 

Dane picked out of his dim past a dozen halting 
similes. The sacred silent convent was one; another 
was the bright country-house. He did the place no 
outrage to liken it to an hotel; he permitted himself 
on occasion to feel it suggest a club. Such images, 
however, but flickered and went out — they lasted 
only long enough to light up the difference. An hotel 
without noise, a club without newspapers — when he 
turned his face to what it was "without" the view 
opened wide. The only approach to a real analogy 
was in himself and his companions. They were 
brothers, guests, members; they were even, if one 
liked — and they didn't in the least mind what 
they were called — "regular boarders." It wasn't 
they who made the conditions, it was the conditions 
that made them. These conditions found themselves 
accepted, clearly, with an appreciation, with a rap- 
ture, it was rather to be called, that proceeded, as the 
very air that pervaded them and the force that sus- 
tained, from their quiet and noble assurance. They 
combined to form the large simple idea of a general 
refuge — an image of embracing arms, of liberal ac- 
commodation. What was the effect really but the 

249 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

poetisation by perfect taste of a type common enough ? 
There was no daily miracle; the perfect taste, with 
the aid of space, did the trick. What underlay and 
overhung it all, better yet, Dane mused, was some 
original inspiration, but confirmed, unquenched, some 
happy thought of an individual breast. It had been 
born somehow and somewhere — it had had to insist 
on being — the blest conception. The author might 
remain in the obscure, for that was part of the perfec- 
tion : personal service so hushed and regulated that 
you scarce caught it in the act and only knew it by 
its results. Yet the wise mind was everj^vhere — the 
whole thing infallibly centred at the core in a con- 
sciousness. And what a consciousness it had been, 
Dane thought, a consciousness how like his own! 
The wise mind had felt, the wise mind had suffered ; 
then, for all the worried company of minds, the wise 
mind had seen a chance. Of the creation thus ar- 
rived at you could none the less never have said if it 
were the last echo of the old or the sharpest note of the 
modern. 

Dane again and again, among the far bells and 
the soft footfalls, in cool cloister and warm garden, 
found himself wanting not to know more and yet 
liking not to know less. It was part of the high style 
and the grand manner that there was no personal 
publicity, much less any personal reference. Those 
things were in the world — in what he had left; there 
was no vulgarity here of credit or claim or fame. The 
real exquisite was to be without the complication of 
an identity, and the greatest boon of all, doubtless, 
the solid security, the clear confidence one could feel 

250 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

in the keeping of the contract. That was what had 
been most in the wise mind — the importance of the 
absolute sense, on the part of its beneficiaries, that 
what was offered was guaranteed. They had no 
concern but to pay — the wise mind knew what they 
paid for. It was present to Dane each hour that he 
could never be overcharged. Oh the deep deep 
bath, the soft cool plash in the stillness! — this, 
time after time, as if under regular treatment, a 
sublimated German "cure," was the vivid name 
for his luxury. The inner life woke up again, and 
it was the inner life, for people of his generation, 
victims of the modern madness, mere maniacal ex- 
tension and motion, that was returning health. He 
had talked of independence and written of it, but 
what a cold flat word it had been ! This was the word- 
less fact itself — the uncontested possession of the 
long sweet stupid day. The fragrance of flowers just 
wandered through the void, and the quiet recurrence 
of delicate plain fare in a high, clean refectory where 
the soundless simple service was a triumph of art. 
That, as he analysed, remained the constant explana- 
tion: all the sweetness and serenity were created 
calculated things. He analysed, however, but in a 
desultory way and with a positive delight in the re- 
siduum of mystery that made for the great agent in 
the background the innermost shrine of the idol of a 
temple ; there were odd moments for it, mild medita- l 
tions when, in the broad cloister of peace or some 
garden-nook where the air was light, a special 
glimpse of beauty or reminder of felicity seemed, in 
passing, to hover and linger. In the mere ecstasy of 

251 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

change that had at first possessed him he had n't dis- 
criminated — had only let himself sink, as I have 
mentioned, down to hushed depths. Then had come 
the slow soft stages of intelligence and notation, more 
marked and more fruitful perhaps after that long talk 
with his mild mate in the twilight, and seeming to 
wind up the process by putting the key into his hand. 
This key, pure gold, was simply the cancelled list. 
Slowly and blissfully he read into the general wealth 
of his comfort all the particular absences of which 
it was composed. One by one he touched, as it were, 
all the things it was such rapture to be without. 

It was the paradise of his own room that was most 
indebted to them — a great square fair chamber, 
all beautified with omissions, from which, high up, 
he looked over a long valley to a far horizon, and in 
which he was vaguely and pleasantly reminded of 
some old Italian picture, some Carpaccio or some 
early Tuscan, the representation of a world without 
newspapers and letters, without telegrams and photo- 
graphs, without the dreadful fatal too much. There, 
for a blessing, he could read and write ; there above all 
he could do nothing — he could live. And there were 
all sorts of freedoms — always, for the occasion, the 
particular right one. He could bring a book from the 
library — he could bring two, he could bring three. 
An effect produced by the charming place was that 
for some reason he never wanted to bring more. The 
library was a benediction — high and clear and plain 
like everything else, but with something, in all its 
arched amplitude, unconfused and brave and gay. 
He should never forget, he knew, the throb of immedi- 

2S2 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

ate perception with which he first stood there, a single 
glance round sufficing so to show him that it would 
give him what for years he had desired. He had not 
had detachment, but there was detachment here — 
the sense of a great silver bowl from which he could 
ladle up the melted hours. He strolled about from 
wall to wall, too pleasantly in tune on that occasion 
to sit down punctually or to choose ; only recognising 
from shelf to shelf every dear old book that he had had 
to put off or never returned to; every deep distinct 
voice of another time that in the hubbub of the world, 
he had had to take for lost and unheard. He came 
back of course soon, came back every day; enjoyed 
there, of all the rare strange moments, those that were 
at once most quickened and most caught — moments 
in which every apprehension counted double and every 
act of the mind was a lover's embrace. It was the 
quarter he perhaps, as the days went on, liked best; 
though indeed it only shared with the rest of the place, 
with every aspect to which his face happened to be 
turned, the power to remind him of the masterly 
general care. 

There were times when he looked up from his book 
to lose himself in the mere tone of the picture that 
never failed at any moment or at any angle. The 
picture was always there, yet was made up of things 
common enough. It was in the way an open window 
in a broad recess let in the pleasant morning; in the 
way the dry air pricked into faint freshness the gilt 
of old bindings; in the way an empty chair beside a 
table unlittered showed a volume just laid down; in 
the way a happy Brother — as detached as one's self 

253 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

and with his innocent back presented — lingered 
before a shelf with the slow sound of turned pages. 
It was a part of the whole impression that, by some 
extraordinary law, one's vision seemed less from the 
facts than the facts from one's vision; that the ele- 
ments were determined at the moment by the mo- 
ment's need or the moment's sympathy. What most 
prompted this reflexion was the degree in which Dane 
had after a while a consciousness of company. After 
that talk with the good Brother on the bench there 
were other good Brothers in other places — always 
in cloister or garden some figure that stopped if he 
himself stopped and with which a greeting became, 
in the easiest way in the world, a sign of the diffused 
amenity and the consecrating ignorance. For always, 
always, in all contacts, was the balm of a happy blank. 
What he had felt the first time recurred : the friend 
was always new and yet at the same time — it was 
amusing, not disturbing — suggested the possibility 
that he might be but an old one altered. That was 
only delightful — as positively delightful in the par- 
ticular, the actual conditions as it might have been 
the reverse in the conditions abolished. These others, 
the abolished, came back to Dane at last so easily 
that he could exactly measure each difference, but 
with what he had finally been hustled on to hate in 
them robbed of its terror in consequence of something 
that had happened. What had happened was that 
in tranquil walks and talks the deep spell had worked 
and he had got his soul again. He had drawn in by 
this time, with his lightened hand, the whole of the 
long line, and that fact just dangled at the end. He 

254 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

could put his other hand on it, he could unhook it, 
he was once more in possession. This, as it befell, was 
exactly what he supposed he must have said to a com- 
rade beside whom, one afternoon in the cloister, he 
found himself measuring steps. 

"Oh it comes — comes of itself, does n't it, thank 
goodness ? — just by the simple fact of finding room 
and time!" 

The comrade was possibly a novice or in a differ- 
ent stage from his own ; there was at any rate a vague 
envy in the recognition that shone out of the fatigued 
yet freshened face. "It has come to you then? — 
you've got what you wanted ?" That was the gossip 
and interchange that could pass to and fro. Dane, 
years before, had gone in for three months of hydro- 
pathy, and there was a droll echo, in this scene, of 
the old questions of the water-cure, the questions 
asked in the periodical pursuit of the "reaction" — 
the ailment, the progress of each, the action of the 
skin and the state of the appetite. Such memories 
worked in now — all familiar reference, all easy play 
of mind; and among them our friends, round and 
round, fraternised ever so softly till, suddenly stop- 
ping short, Dane, with a hand on his companion's 
arm, broke into the happiest laugh he had yet 
sounded. 



" Why it 's raining ! " And he stood and looked at the 
splash of the shower and the shine of the wet leaves. 
It was one of the summer sprinkles that bring out 
sweet smells. 

"Yes — but why not ?" his mate demanded. 

"Well — because it's so charming. It's so exactly 
right." 

"But everything is. Isn't that just why we're 
here?" 

"Just exactly," Dane said; "only I've been Hving 
in the beguiled supposition that we 've somehow or 
other a climate." 

" So have I, so I dare say has every one. Is n't that 
the blest moral ? — that we live in beguiled supposi- 
tions. They come so easily here, where nothing con- 
tradicts them." The good Brother looked placidly 
forth — Dane could identify his phase. "A climate 
does n't consist in its never raining, does it ? " 

" No, I dare say not. But somehow the good I 've 
got has been half the great easy absence of all that 
friction of which the question of weather mostly forms 
a part — has been indeed largely the great easy per- 
petual air-bath." 

"Ah yes — that's not a delusion; but perhaps the 
sense comes a little from our breathing an emptier 
medium. There are fewer things in it! Leave people 
alone, at all events, and the air's what they take to. 

256 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

Into the closed and the stuffy they have to be driven. 
I 've had too — I think -we must all have — a fond 
sense of the south." 

"But imagine it," said Dane, laughing, "in the 
beloved British islands and so near as we are to Brad- 
ford!" 

His friend was ready enough to imagine. "To 
Bradford?" he asked, quite unperturbed. "How 
near?" 

Dane's gaiety grew. "Oh it doesn't matter!" 

His friend, quite unmystified, accepted it. "There 
are things to puzzle out — otherwise it would be dull. 
It seems to me one can puzzle them." 

"It's because we're so well disposed," Dane said. 

" Precisely — we find good in everything." 

"In everything," Dane went on. "The conditions 
settle that — they determine us." 

They resumed their stroll, which evidently repre- 
sented on the good Brother's part infinite agreement. 
"Are n't they probably in fact very simple ?" he pre- 
sently enquired. "Isn't simpHfication the secret?" 

"Yes, but applied with a tact!" 

"There it is. The thing's so perfect that it's open 
to as many interpretations as any other great work 
— a poem of Goethe, a dialogue of Plato, a symphony 
of Beethoven." 

"It simply stands quiet, you mean," said Dane, 
"and lets us call it names ?" 

"Yes, but all such loving ones. We're 'staying' 
with some one — some delicious host or hostess who 
never shows." 

"It's liberty-hall — absolutely," Dane assented. 
257 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

"Yes — or a convalescent home." 

To this, however, Dane demurred. "Ah that, it 
seems to me, scarcely puts it. You were n't /// — 
were you ? I 'm very sure I really was n't. I was only, 
as the world goes, too 'beastly well'!" 

The good Brother wondered. " But if we could n't 
keep it up — ? " 

"We couldn't keep it down — that was all the 
matter ! " 

"I see — I see." The good Brother sighed con- 
tentedly; after which he brought out again with 
kindly humour: "It's a sort of kindergarten!" 

"The next thing you'll be saying that we're babes 
at the breast!" 

"Of some great mild invisible mother who stretches 
away into space and whose lap's the whole val- 
ley—?" 

"And her bosom " — Dane completed the figure — 
"the noble eminence of our hill .? That will do; any- 
thing will do that covers the essential fact." 

"And what do you call the essential fact ?" 

"Why that — as in old days on Swiss lakesides — 
we're en pension." 

The good Brother took this gently up. "I remem- 
ber — I remember: seven francs a day without wine! 
But alas it's more than seven francs here." 

"Yes, it's considerably more," Dane had to con- 
fess. "Perhaps it isn't particularly cheap." 

"Yet should you call it particularly dear?" his 
friend after a moment enquired. 

George Dane had to think. " How do I know, after 
all ? What practice has one ever had in estimating 

258 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

the inestimable ? Particular cheapness certainly is n't 
the note we feel struck all round; but don't we fall 
naturally into the view that there must be a price to 
anything so awfully sane ? " 

The good Brother in his turn reflected. "We fall 
into the view that it must pay — that it does pay." 

"Oh yes; it does pay!" Dane eagerly echoed. "If 
it did n't it would n't last. It has got to last of course ! " 
he declared. 

"So that we can come back ?" 

"Yes — think of knowing that we shall be able to ! " 

They pulled up again at this and, facing each other, 
thought of it, or at any rate pretended to; for what 
was really in their eyes was the dread of a loss of the 
clue. "Oh when we want it again we shall find it," 
said the good Brother. "If the place really pays it 
will keep on." 

"Yes, that's the beauty; that it is n't, thank good- 
ness, carried on only for love." 

"No doubt, no doubt; and yet, thank goodness, 
there's love in it too." They had lingered as if, in the 
mild moist air, they were charmed with the patter of 
the rain and the way the garden drank it. After a 
little, however, it did look rather as if they were trying 
to talk each other out of a faint small fear. They saw 
the increasing rage of life and the recurrent need, and 
they wondered proportionately whether to return to 
the front when their hour should sharply strike would 
be the end of the dream. Was this a threshold per- 
haps, after all, that could only be crossed one way ? 
They must return to the front sooner or later — that 
was certain: for each his hour would strike. The 

259 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

flower would have been gathered and the trick played 
— the sands would in short have run. 

There, in its place, was life — with all its rage; the 
vague unrest of the need for action knew it again, 
the stir of the faculty that had been refreshed and 
reconsecrated. They seemed each, thus confronted, 
to close their eyes a moment for dizziness ; then they 
were again at peace and the Brother's confidence 
rang out. "Oh we shall meet!" 

" Here, do you mean ? " 

" Yes — and I dare say in the world too." 

"But we shan't recognise or know," said Dane, 

" In the world, do you mean ? " 

"Neither in the world nor here." 

"Not a bit — not the least little bit, you think?" 

Dane turned it over. "Well, so is it that it 
seems to me all best to hang together. But we shall 
see." 

His friend happily concurred. "We shall see." 
And at this, for farewell, the Brother held out his 
hand. 

"You're going?" Dane asked. 

"No, but I thought you were." 

It was odd, but at this Dane's hour seemed to 
strike — his consciousness to crystallise. "Well, I am. 
I've got it. You stay?" he went on. 

"A little longer." 

Dane hesitated. "You have n't yet got it ?" 

"Not altogether — but I think it's coming." 

"Good!" Dane kept his hand, giving it a final 
shake, and at that moment the sun glimmered again 
through the shower, but with the rain still falling on 

260 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

the hither side of it and seeming to patter even more 
in the brightness, "Hallo — how charming!" 

The Brother looked a moment from under the high 
arch — then again turned his face to our friend. He 
gave this time his longest happiest sigh, "Oh it's 
all right!" 

But why was it, Dane after a moment found him- 
self wondering, that in the act of separation his own 
hand was so long retained ? Why but through a queer 
phenomenon of change, on the spot, in his compan- 
ion's face — change that gave it another, but an in- 
creasing and above all a much more familiar identity, 
an identity not beautiful, but more and more distinct, 
an identity with that of his servant, with the most 
conspicuous, the physiognomic seat of the public 
propriety of Brown ,'' To this anomaly his eyes slowly 
opened; it was not his good Brother, it was verily 
Brown who possessed his hand. If his eyes had to 
open it was because they had been closed and because 
Brown appeared to think he had better wake up. So 
much as this Dane took in, but the effect of his taking 
it was a relapse into darkness, a recontraction of the 
lids just prolonged enough to give Brown time, on a 
second thought, to withdraw his touch and move 
softly away. Dane's next consciousness was that of 
the desire to make sure he was away, and this desire 
had somehow the result of dissipating the obscurity. 
The obscurity was completely gone by the time he 
had made out that the back of a person writing at his 
study-table was presented to him. He recognised a 
portion of a figure that he had somewhere described 
to somebody — the intent shoulders of the unsuccess- 

261 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

ful young man who had come that bad morning to 
breakfast. It was strange, he at last mused, but the 
young man was still there. How long had he stayed — 
days, weeks, months ? He was exactly in the position 
in which Dane had last seen him. Everything — 
stranger still — was exactly in that position; every- 
thing at least but the light of the window, which came 
in from another quarter and showed a different hour. 
It wasn't after breakfast now; it was after — well, 
what ? He suppressed a gasp — it was after every- 
thing. And yet — quite literally — there were but 
two other differences. One of these was that if he 
was still on the sofa he was now lying down; the 
other was the patter on the glass that showed him 
how the rain — the great rain of the night — had come 
back. It was the rain of the night, yet when had he 
last heard it ? But two minutes before ? Then how 
many were there before the young man at the table, 
who seemed intensely occupied, found a moment to 
look round at him and, on meeting his open eyes, 
get up and draw near ? 

"You've slept all day," said the young man. 

"All day?" 

The young man looked at his watch. "From ten 
to six. You were extraordinarily tired. I just after 
a bit let you alone, and you were soon off." Yes, that 
was it; he had been "off" — off, off, off. He began 
to fit it together: while he had been off the young 
man had been on. But there were still some few con- 
fusions; Dane lay looking up. "Everything's done," 
the young man continued. 

"Everything?" 

262 



THE GREAT GOOD PLACE 

" Everything." 

Dane tried to take it all in, but was embarrassed 
and could only say weakly and quite apart from the 
matter: "I've been so happy!" 

"So have I," said the young man. He positively 
looked so; seeing which George Dane wondered 
afresh, and then in his wonder read it indeed quite 
as another face, quite, in a puzzling way, as another 
person's. Every one was a little some one else. While 
he asked himself who else then the young man was, 
this benefactor, struck by his appealing stare, broke 
again into perfect cheer. "It's all right!" That an- 
swered Dane's question; the face was the face turned 
to him by the good Brother there in the portico while 
they listened together to the rustle of the shower. It 
was all queer, but all pleasant and all distinct, so dis- 
tinct that the last words in his ear — the same from 
both quarters — appeared the effect of a single voice. 
Dane rose and looked about his room, which seemed 
disencumbered, different, twice as large. It was all 
right. 



FOUR MEETINGS 



FOUR MEETINGS 

I SAW her but four times, though I remember them 
vividly; she made her impression on me. I thought 
her very pretty and very interesting — a touching 
specimen of a type with which I had had other and 
perhaps less charming associations. I 'm sorry to hear 
of her death, and yet when I think of it why should I 
be ? The last time I saw her she was certainly not — ! 
But it will be of interest to take our meetings in order. 



The first was in the-country, at a small tea-party, one 
snowy night of some seventeen years ago. My friend 
Latouche, going to spend Christmas with his mother, 
had insisted on my company, and the good lady had 
given in our honour the entertainment of which I 
speak. To me it was really full of savour — it had all 
the right marks: I had never been in the depths of 
New England at that season. It had been snowing all 
day and the drifts were knee-high. I wondered how 
the ladies had made their way to the house ; but I in- 
ferred that just those general rigours rendered any 
assembly offering the attraction of two gentlemen 
from New York worth a desperate effort. 

Mrs. Latouche in the course of the evening asked 
me if I " did n't want to " show the photographs to 

267 



FOUR MEETINGS 

some of the young ladies. The photographs were in 
a couple of great portfolios, and had been brought 
home by her son, who, like myself, was lately re- 
turned from Europe. I looked round and was struck 
with the fact that most of the young ladies were pro- 
vided with an object of interest more absorbing than 
the most vivid sun-picture. But there was a person 
alone near the mantel-shelf who looked round the 
room with a small vague smile, a discreet, a disguised 
yearning, which seemed somehow at odds with her 
isolation. I looked at her a moment and then chose. 
"I should like to show them to that young lady." 

"Oh yes," said Mrs. Latouche, "she's just the 
person. She does n't care for flirting — I '11 speak to 
her." I replied that if she did n't care for flirting she 
was n't perhaps just the person; but Mrs. Latouche 
had already, with a few steps, appealed to her parti- 
cipation. "She's delighted," my hostess came back 
to report; "and she's just the person — so quiet and 
so bright." And she told me the young lady was by 
name Miss Caroline Spencer — with which she in- 
troduced me. 

Miss Caroline Spencer was not quite a beauty, but 
was none the less, in her small odd way, formed to 
please. Close upon thirty, by every presumption, she 
was made almost like a little girl and had the com- 
plexion of a child. She had also the prettiest head, on 
which her hair was arranged as nearly as possible like 
the hair of a Greek bust, though indeed it was to be 
doubted if she had ever seen a Greek bust. She was 
"artistic," I suspected, so far as the polar influences 
of North Verona could allow for such yearnings or 

268 



FOUR MEETINGS 

could minister to them. Her eyes were perhaps just 
too round and too inveterately surprised, but her Hps 
had a certain mild decision and her teeth, when she 
showed therti, were charming. About her neck she 
wore what ladies call, I believe, a "ruche" fastened 
with a very small pin of pink coral, and in her hand 
she carried a fan made of plaited straw and adorned 
with pink ribbon. She wore a scanty black silk dress. 
She spoke with slow sqftjieatness, even without smiles 
showing the prettiness of her teeth, and she seemed 
extremely pleased, in fact quite fluttered, at the pro- 
spect of my demonstrations. These went forward very 
smoothly after I had moved the portfolios out of their 
corner and placed a couple of chairs near a lamp. 
The photographs were usually things I knew — large 
views of Switzerland, Italy and Spain, landscapes, 
reproductions of famous buildings, pictures and 
statues. I said what I could for them, and my com- 
panion, looking at them as I held them up, sat per- 
fectly still, her straw fan raised to her under-lip and 
gently, yet, as I could feel, almost excitedly, rubbing 
it. Occasionally, as I laid one of the pictures down, 
she said without confidence, which would have been 
too much: "Have you seen that place .^" I usually 
answered that I had seen it several times — I had been 
a great traveller, though I was somehow particularly 
admonished not to swagger — and then I felt her look 
at me askance for a moment with her pretty eyes. I 
had asked her at the outset whether she had been tp 
Europe; to this she had answered "No, no, no" — 
almost as much below her breath as if the image of 
such an event scarce, for solemnity, brooked phras- 

269 



FOUR MEETINGS 

ing. But after that, though she never took her eyes 
off the pictures, she said so little that I feared she was 
at last bored. Accordingly when we had finished one 
portfolio I offered, if she desired it, to desist. I rather 
guessed the exhibition really held her, but her reti- 
cence puzzled me and I wanted to make her speak. I 
turned round to judge better and then saw a faint 
flush in each of her cheeks. She kept waving her little 
fan to and fro. Instead of looking at me she fixed her 
eyes on the remainder of the collection, which leaned, 
in Its receptacle, against the table. 

"Won't you show me that ? " she quavered, drawing 
the long breath of a person launched and afloat but 
conscious of rocking a little. 

"With pleasure," I answered, "if you're really not 
tired." 

"Oh I'm not tired a bit. I'm just fascinated." 
With which as I took up the other portfolio she laid 
her hand on it, rubbing it softly. "And have you been 
here too ? " 

On my opening the portfolio it appeared I had in- 
deed been there. One of the first photographs was a 
large view of the Castle of Chillon by the Lake of 
Geneva. "Here," I said, "I've been many a time. 
Is n't it beautiful ? " And I pointed to the perfect re- 
flexion of the rugged rocks and pointed towers in the 
clear still water. She did n't say "Oh enchanting!" 
and push it away to see the next picture. She looked 
awhile and then asked if it were n't where Bonnivard, 
about whom Byron wrote, had been confined. I as- 
sented, trying to quote Byron's verses, but not quite 
bringing it off^. 

270 



FOUR MEETINGS 

She fanned herself a moment and then repeated the 
lines correctly, in a soft flat voice but with charming 
conviction. By the time she had finished, she was 
nevertheless blushing. I complimented her and as- 
sured her she was perfectly equipped for visiting 
Switzerland and Italy. She looked at me askance 
again, to see if I might be serious, and I added that if 
she wished to recognise Byron's descriptions she must 
go abroad speedily — Europe was getting sadly dis- 
Byronised. "How soon must I go ?" she thereupon 
enquired. 

"Oh I'll give you ten years." 

"Well, I guess I can go in that time," she answered 
as if measuring her words. 

"Then you'll enjoy it immensely," I said; "you'll 
find it of the highest interest." Just then I came 
upon a photograph of some nook in a foreign city 
which I had been very fond of and which recalled 
tender memories. I discoursed (as I suppose) with 
considerable spirit; my companion sat listening 
breathless. 

"Have you been very long over there ?" she asked 
some time after I had ceased. 

"Well, it mounts up, put all the times to- 
gether." 

"And have you travelled everjTwhere ? " 

"I've travelled a good deal. I'm very fond of it 
and happily have been able." 

Again she turned on me her slow shy scrutiny. 
" Do you know the foreign languages ? " 

"After a fashion." 

" Is it hard to speak them ? " 
271 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"I don't imagine you 'd find it so," I gallantly an- 
swered. 

"Oh I shouldn't want to speak — I should only 
want to listen." Then on a pause she added : "They 
say the French theatre's so beautiful." 

"Ah the best in the world." 

"Did you go there very often ?" 

"When I was first in Paris I went every night." 

"Every night!" And she opened her clear eyes 
very wide. "That to me is" — and her expression 
hovered — " as if you tell me a fairy-tale." A few 
minutes later she put to me: "And which country 
do you prefer ? " 

"There 's one I love beyond any. I think you 'd do 
the same." 

Her gaze rested as on a dim revelation and then she 
breathed "Italy?" 

"Italy," I answered softly too; and for a moment 
we communed over it. She looked as pretty as if in- 
stead of showing her photographs I had been making 
love to her. To increase the resemblance she turned 
off blushing. It made a pause which she broke at last 
by saying: "That's the place which — in particu- 
lar — I thought of going to." 

"Oh that's the place — that's the place!" I 
laughed. 

She looked at two or three more views in silence. 
"They say it's not very dear." 

"As some other countries? Well, one gets back 
there one's money. That's not the least of the 
charms." 

" But it 's all very expensive, is n't it ? " 
272 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"Europe, you mean ?" 

"Going there and travelling. That has been the 
trouble. I 've very little money. I teach, you know," 
said Miss Caroline Spencer, 

"Oh of course one must have money," I allowed; 
" but one can manage with a moderate amount judi- 
ciously spent." 

"I think I should manage. I've saved and saved 
up, and I 'm always adding a little to it. It 's all for 
that." She paused a moment, and then went on with 
suppressed eagerness, as if telling me the story were a 
rare, but possibly an impure satisfaction.. "You see 
it has n't been only the money — it has been every- 
thing. Everything has acted against it. I 've waited 
and waited. It has been my castle in the air. I 'm al- 
most afraid to talk about it. Two or three times it has 
come a little nearer, and then I 've talked about it and 
it has melted away. I 've talked about it too much," 
she said hypocritically — for I saw such talk was 
now a small tremulous ecstasy. "There's a lady 
who 's a great friend of mine — she does n't want to 
go, but I 'm always at her about it. I think I must tire 
her dreadfully. She told me just the other day she 
did n't know what would become of me. She guessed 
I *d go crazy if I did n't sail, and yet certainly I 'd go 
crazy if I did." 

"Well," I laughed, "you have n't sailed up to now 
— so I suppose you are crazy." 

She took everything with the same seriousness. 
"Well, I guess I must be. It seems as if I could n't 
think of anything else — and I don't require photo- 
graphs to work me up ! I 'm always right on it. It 

273 



FOUR MEETINGS 

kills any interest in things nearer home — things I 
ought to attend to. That 's a kind of craziness." 

"Well then the cure for it's just to go," I smiled — 
"I mean the cure for this kind. Of course you may 
have the other kind worse," I added — "the kind you 
get over there." 

" Well, I 've a faith that I '11 go some time all right ! " 
she quite elatedly cried. " I 've a relative right there on 
the spot," she went on, "and I guess he'll know how 
to control me." I expressed the hope that he would, 
and I forget whether we turned over more photo- 
graphs ; but when I asked her if she bad always lived 
just where I found her, "Oh no sir," she quite eagerly 
replied; "I've spent twenty-two months and a half 
in Boston." I met it with the inevitable joke that in 
this case foreign lands might prove a disappointment 
to her, but I quite failed to alarm her. " I know more 
about them than you might think " — her earnestness 
resisted even that. "I mean by reading — for I've 
really read considerable. In fact I guess I've pre- 
pared my mind about as much as you can — in ad- 
vance. I 've not only read Byron — I 've read his- 
tories and guide-books and articles and lots of things. 
I know I shall rave about everything." 
^ "'Everything' is saying much, but I understand 
your case," I returned. "You 've the great American 
disease, and you 've got it ' bad ' — the appetite, mor- 
bid and monstrous, for colour and form, for the pic- 
turesque and the romantic at any price. I don't know 
whether we come into the world with it — with the 
germs implanted and antecedent to experience ; rather 
perhaps we catch it early, almost before developed 

274 



FOUR MEETINGS 

consciousness — we feel, as we look about, that we 're 
going (to save our souls, or at least our senses) to be 
thrown back on it hard. We 're like travellers in the 
desert — deprived of water and subject to the terrible 
mirage, the torment of illusion, of the thirst-fever. 
They hear the plash of fountains, they see green gar- 
dens and orchards that are hundreds of miles away. 
So we with our thirst — except that with us it 's more 
wonderful : we have before us the beautiful old things 
we've never seen at all, and when we do at last see 
them — if we 're lucky ! — we simply recognise them. 
What experience does is merely to confirm and con- 
secrate our confident dream." 

She listened with her rounded eyes. "The way you 
express it 's too lovely, and I 'm sure it will be just like 
that. I 've dreamt of everything — I '11 know it all ! " 

"I'm afraid," I pretended for harmless comedy, 
"that you've wasted a great deal of time." 

" Oh yes, that has been my great wickedness !" The 
people about us had begun to scatter; they were tak- 
ing their leave. She got up and put out her hand to 
me, timidly, but as if quite shining and throbbing. 

" I'm going back there — one has to," I said as I 
shook hands with her. "I shall look out for you." 

Yes, she fairly glittered with her fever of excited 
faith. "Well, I '11 tell you if I 'm disappointed." And 
she left me, fluttering all expressively her little straw 
fan. 



II 

A FEW months after this I crossed the sea eastward 
again and some three years elapsed. I had been living 
in Paris and, toward the end of October, went from 
that city to the Havre, to meet a pair of relatives who 
had written me they were about to arrive there. On 
reaching the Havre I found the steamer already 
docked — I was two or three hours late. I repaired 
directly to the hotel, where my travellers were duly 
established. My sister had gone to bed, exhausted 
and disabled by her voyage ; she was the unsteadiest 
of sailors and her sufferings on this occasion had been 
extreme. She desired for the moment undisturbed rest 
and was able to see me but five minutes — longenough 
for us to agree to stop over, restoratively, till the mor- 
row. My brother-in-law, anxious about his wife, was 
unwilling to leave her room ; but she insisted on my 
taking him a walk for aid to recovery of his spirits 
and his land-legs. 

The early autumn day was warm and charming, 
and our stroll through the bright-coloured busy streets 
of the old French seaport beguiling enough. We 
walked along the sunny noisy quays and then turned 
into a wide pleasant street which lay half in sun and 
half in shade — a French provincial street that re- 
sembled an old water-colour drawing : tall grey steep- 
roofed red-gabled many-storied houses ; green shutters 
on windows and old scroll-work above them ; flower- 

276 



FOUR MEETINGS 

pots in balconies and white-capped women in door- 
ways. We walked in the shade ; all this stretched away 
on the sunny side of the vista and made a picture. We 
looked at it as we passed along; then suddenly my 
comjpanion stopped — pressing my arm and staring. 
I foflowed his gaze and saw that we had paused just 
before reaching a cafe where, under an awning, sev- 
eral tables and chairs were disposed upon the pave- 
ment. The windows were open behind ; half a dozen 
plants in tubs were ranged beside the door; the pave- 
ment was besprinkled with clean bran. It was a dear 
little quiet old-world cafe; inside, in the comparative 
dusk, I saw a stout handsome woman, who had pink 
ribbons in her cap, perched up with a mirror behind 
her back and smiling at some one placed out of 
sight. This, to be exact, I noted afterwards; what I 
first observed was a lady seated alone, outside, at one 
of the little marble-topped tables. My brother-in-law 
had stopped to look at her. Something had been put 
before her, but she only leaned back, motionless and 
with her hands folded, looking down the street and 
away from us. I saw her but in diminished profile; 
nevertheless I was sure I knew on the spot that we 
must already have met. 

"The little lady of the steamer!" my companion 
cried. 

"Was she on your steamer ? " I asked with interest. 

"From morning till night. She was never sick. She 
used to sit perpetually at the side of the vessel with her 
hands crossed that way, looking at the eastward 
horizon." 

"And are you going to speak to her ?" 
277 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"I don't know her. I never made acquaintance 
with her. I was n't in form to make up to ladies. But 
I used to watch her and — I don't know why — to be 
interested in her. She's a dear little Yankee woman. 
I 've an idea she 's a school-mistress taking a hoHday 

— for which her scholars have made up a purse." 
She had now turned her face a little more into pro- 
file, looking at the steep grey house-fronts opposite. 
On this I decided. "I shall speak to her myself." 

"I wouldn't — she's very shy," said my brother- 
in-law. 

"My dear fellow, I know her. I once showed her 
photographs at a tea-party." With which I went up 
to her, making her, as she turned to look at me, leave 
me in no doubt of her identity. Miss Caroline Spencer 
had achieved her dream. But she was less quick to 
recognise me and showed a slight bewilderment. I 
pushed a chair to the table and sat down. "Well," I 
said, " I hope you 're not disappointed ! " 

She stared, blushing a little — then gave a small 
jump and placed me. "It was you who showed me 
the photographs — at North Verona." 

"Yes, it was I. This happens very charmingly, for 
is n'tit jquite/for me to give you a formal reception here 

— the official welcome ? I talked to you so much 
about Europe." 

"You didn't say too much. I'm so intensely 
happy!" she declared. 

Very happy indeed she looked. There was no sign 
of her being older; she was as gravely, decently, de- 
murely pretty as before. If she had struck me then as 
a thin-stemmed mild-hued flower of Puritanism it 

278 



FOUR MEETINGS 

may be imagined whether in her present situation this 
clear bloom was less appealing. Beside her an old 
gentleman was drinking absinthe; behind her the 
dame de comptoir in the pink ribbons called "Alci- 
biade, Alcibiade ! " to the long-aproned waiter. I ex- 
plained to Miss Spencer that the gentleman with me 
had lately been her shipmate, and my brother-in-law 
came up and was introduced to her. But she looked 
at him as if she had never so much as seen him, and I 
remembered he had told me her eyes were always 
fixed on the eastward horizon. She had evidently not 
noticed him, and, still timidly smiling, made no at- 
tempt whatever to pretend the contrary. I staid with 
her on the little terrace of the cafe while he went back 
to the hotel and to his wife. I remarked to my friend 
that this meeting of ours at the first hour of her land- 
ing partook, among all chances, of the miraculous, 
but that I was delighted to be there and receive her 
first impressions. 

"Oh I can't tell you," she said — "I feel so much 
in a dream. I 've been sitting here an hour and I don't 
want to move. Everything's so delicious and ro- 
mantic. I don't know whether the coffee has gone 
to my head — it 's so unlike the coflFee of my dead 
past." 

"Really," I made answer, "if you're so pleased 
with this poor prosaic Havre you '11 have no admira- 
tion left for better things. Don't spend your apprecia- 
tfon all the first day — remember it 's your intellectual 
letter of credit. Remember all the beautiful places 
and things that are waiting for you. Remember that 
lovely Italy we talked about." 

279 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"I'm not afraid of running short," she said gaily, 
still looking at the opposite houses. "I could sit here 
all day — just saying to myself that here I am at last. 
It 's so dark and strange — so old and different." 

" By the way then," I asked, " how come you to be 
encamped in this odd place ? Have n't you gone to 
one of the inns ? " For I was half-amused, half- 
alarmed at the good conscience with which this 
delicately pretty woman had stationed herself in con- 
spicuous isolation on the edge of the sidewalk. 

"My cousin brought me here and — a little while 
ago — left me," she returned. "You know I told you 
I had a relation over here. He 's still here — a real 
cousin. Well," she pursued with unclouded candour, 
"he met me at the, steamer this morning." 

It was absurd — and the case moreover none of my 
business; but I felt somehow disconcerted. "It was 
hardly worth his while to meet you if he was to desert 
you so soon." 

"Oh he has only left me for half an hour," said 
Caroline Spencer. "He has gone to get my money." 

I continued to wonder. "Where is your money ? " 

She appeared seldom to laugh, but she laughed for 
the joy of this. " It makes me feel very fine to tell you ! 
It's in circular notes." 

"And where are your circular notes ?" 

"In my cousin's pocket." 

This statement was uttered with such clearness of 
candour that — I can hardly say why — it gave me a 
sensible chill. I could n't at all at the moment have 
justified my lapse from ease, for I knew nothing of 
Miss Spencer's cousin. Since he stood in that relation 

280 



FOUR MEETINGS 

to her — dear respectable little person — the pre- 
sumption was in his favour. But I found myself winc- 
ing at the thought that half an hour after her landing 
her scanty funds should have passed into his hands. 
"Is he to travel with you ?" I asked. 

"Only as far as Paris. He 's an art-student in Paris 
— I 've always thought that so splendid. I wrote to 
him that I was coming, but I never expected him to 
come off to the ship. I supposed he 'd only just meet 
me at the train in Paris. It's very kind of him. But he 
is," said Caroline Spencer, "very kind — and very 
bright." 

I felt at once a strange eagerness to see this bright 
kind cousin who was an art-student. "He's gone to 
the banker's ? " I enquired. 

"Yes, to the banker's. He took me to an hotel — 
such a queer quaint cunning little place, with a court 
in the middle and a gallery all round, and a lovely 
landlady in such a beautifully fluted cap and such a 
perfectly fitting dress ! After a while we came out to 
walk to the banker's, for I had n't any French money. 
But I was very dizzy from the motion of the vessel and 
I thought I had better sit down. He found this place 
for me here — then he went off to the banker's him- 
self. I 'm to wait here till he comes back." 

Her story was wholly lucid and my impression per- 
fectly wanton, but it passed through my mind that 
the gentleman w;ould never come back. I settled my- 
self in a chair beside my friend and determined to 
await the event. She was lost in the vision and the 
imagination of everything near us and about us — 
she observed, she recognised and admired, with a 

281 



FOUR MEETINGS 

touching intensity. She noticed everything that was 
brought before us by the movement of the street — ■ 
the peculiarities of costume, the shapes of vehicles, 
the big Norman horses, the fat priests, the shaven 
poodles. We talked of these things, and there was 
something charming in her freshness of perception 
and the way her book-nourished fancy sallied forth 
for the revel. 

"And when your cousin comes back what are you 
going to do ? " I went on. 

For this she had, a little oddly, to think. "We don't 
quite know." 

"When do you go to Paris ? If you go by the four 
o'clock train I may have the pleasure of making the 
journey with you." 

"I don't think we shall do that." So far she was 
prepared. "My cousin thinks I had better stay here 
a few days." 

"Oh ! " said I — and for five minutes had nothing 
to add. I was wondering what our absentee was, in 
vulgar parlance, "up to." I looked up and down the 
street, but saw nothing that looked like a bright and 
kind American art-student. At last I took the liberty 
of observing that the Havre was hardly a place to 
choose as one of the aesthetic stations of a European 
tour. It was a place of convenience, nothing more; a 
place of transit, through which transit should be 
rapid. I recommended her to go to Paris by the after- 
noon train and meanwhile to amuse herself by driving 
to the ancient fortress at the mouth of the harbour — 
that remarkable circular structure which bore the 
name of Francis the First and figured a sort of small 

282 



FOUR MEETINGS 

Castle of Saint Angelo. (I might really have fore- 
known that it was to be demolished.) 

She listened with much interest — then for a mo- 
ment looked grave, "My cousin told me that when he 
returned he should have something particular to say 
to me, and that we could do nothing or decide nothing 
till I should have heard it. But I 'II make him tell me 
right off, and then we'll go to the ancient fortress. 
Francis the First, did you say ? Why, that 's lovely. 
There's no hurry to get to Paris; there's plenty of 
time." 

She smiled with her softly severe little lips as she 
spoke those last words, yet, looking at her with a pur- 
pose, I made out in her eyes, I thought, a tiny gleam 
of apprehension. "Don't tell me," I said, "that this 
wretched man's going to give you bad news!" 

She coloured as if convicted of a hidden perversity, 
but she was soaring too high to drop. "Well, I guess 
it's a little bad, but I don't believe it's very bad. At 
any rate I must listen to it." 

I usurped an unscrupulous authority. "Look here; 
you did n't come to Europe to listen — you came to 
see ! " But now I was sure her cousin would come 
back; since he had something disagreeable to say to 
her he 'd infallibly turn up. We sat a while longer and 
I asked her about her plans of travel. She had them 
on her fingers' ends and told over the names as sol- 
emnly as a daughter of another faith might have told 
over the beads of a rosary : from Paris to Dijon and to 
Avignon, from Avignon to Marseilles and the Cornice 
road ; thence to Genoa, to Spezia, to Pisa, to Florence, 
to Rome. It apparently had never occurred to her that 

283 



FOUR MEETINGS 

there could be the least incommodity in her travelling 
alone; and since she was unprovided with a com- 
panion I of course civilly abstained from disturbing 
her sense of security. 

At last her cousin came back. I saw him turn to- 
ward us out of a side-street, and from the moment 
my eyes rested on him I knew he could but be the 
bright, if not the kind, American art-student. He wore 
a slouch hat and a rusty black velvet jacket, such as I 
had often encountered in the Rue Bonaparte. His 
shirt-collar displayed a stretch of throat that at a dis- 
tance was n't strikingly statuesque. He was tall and 
lean, he had red hair and freckles. These items I had 
time to take in while he approached the cafe, staring 
at me with natural surprise from under his romantic 
brim. When he came up to us I immediately intro- 
duced myself as an old acquaintance of Miss Spen- 
cer's, a character she serenely permitted me to claim. 
He looked at me hard with a pair of small sharp eyes, 
then he gave me a solemn wave, in the "European" 
fashion, of his rather rusty sombrero. 

"You were n't on the ship ?" he asked. 

" No, I was n't on the ship. I 've been in Europe 
these several years." 

He bowed once more, portentously, and motioned 
me to be seated again. I sat down, but only for the 
purpose of observing him an instant — I saw it was 
time I should return to my sister. Miss Spencer's 
European protector was, by my measure, a very queer 
quantity. Nature had n't shaped him for a Raphael- 
esque or Byronic attire, and his velvet doublet and 
exhibited though not columnar throat were n't in har- 

284 



FOUR MEETINGS 

mony with his facial attributes. His hair was cropped 
close to his head; his ears were large and ill-adjusted 
to the same. He had a lackadaisical carriage and a 
sentimental droop which were peculiarly at variance 
with his keen conscious strange-coloured eyes — of a 
brown that was almost red. Perhaps I was prejudiced, 
but I thought his eyes too shifty. He said nothing for 
some time; he leaned his hands on his stick and 
looked up and down the street. Then at last, slowly 
lifting the stick and pointing with it, "That's a very 
nice bit," he dropped with a certain flatness. He had 
his head to one side — he narrowed his ugly lids. I 
followed the direction of his stick; the object it in- 
dicated was a red cloth hung out of an old window. 
"Nice bit of colour," he continued ; and without mov- 
ing his head transferred his half-closed gaze to me. 
" Composes well. Fine old tone. Make a nice thing/* 
He spoke in a charmless vulgar voice. 

" I see you 've a great deal of eye," I replied. "Your 
cousin tells me you 're studying art." He looked at me 
in the same way, without answering, and I went on 
with deliberate urbanity: "I suppose you're at the 
studio of one of those great men." Still on this he 
continued to fix me, and then he named one of the 
greatest of that day; which led me to ask him if he 
liked his master. 

" Do you understand French ? " he returned. 

"Some kinds." 

He kept his little eyes on me; with which he re- 
marked: "Je suis fou de la peinture!" 

"Oh I understand that kind ! " I replied. Our com- 
panion laid her hand on his arm with a small pleased 

285 



FOUR MEETINGS 

and fluttered movement; it was delightful to be among 
people who were on such easy terms with foreign 
tongues. I got up to take leave and asked her where, 
in Paris, I might have the honour of waiting on her. 
To what hotel would she go ? 

She turned to her cousin enquiringly and he fav- 
oured me again with his little languid leer. " Do you 
know the Hotel des Princes ? " 

"I know where it is." 

"Well, that's the shop." 

"I congratulate you," I said to Miss Spencer. "I 
believe it 's the best inn in the world ; but, in case I 
should still have a moment to call on you here, where 
are you lodged ? " 

"Oh it's such a pretty name," she returned glee- 
fully. "A la Belle Normande." 

"I guess I know my way round!" her kinsman 
threw in ; and as I left them he gave me with his swag- 
gering head-cover a great flourish that was like the 
wave of a banner over a conquered field. 



Ill 

My relative, as it proved, was not sufficiently restored 
to leave the place by the afternoon train; so that as 
the autumn dusk began to fall I found myself at lib- 
erty to call at the establishment named to me by my 
friends. I must confess that I had spent much of the 
interval in wondering what the disagreeable thing was 
that the less attractive of these had been telling the 
other. The auberge of the Belle Normande proved an 
hostelry in a shady by-street, where it gave me satis- 
faction to think Miss Spencer must have encountered 
local colour in abundance. There was a crooked little 
court, where much of the hospitality of the house was 
carried on; there was a staircase climbing to bed- 
rooms on the outer side of the wall ; there was a small 
trickling fountain with a stucco statuette set in the 
midst of it; there was a little boy in a white cap and 
apron cleaning copper vessels at a conspicuous kitchen 
door; there was a chattering landlady, neatly laced, 
arranging apricots and grapes into an artistic pyramid 
upon a pink plate. I looked about, and on a green 
bench outside of an open door labelled Salle-a-Man- 
ger, I distinguished Caroline Spencer. No sooner had 
I looked at her than I was sure something had hap- 
pened since the morning. Supported by the back of 
her bench, with her hands clasped in her lap, she kept 
her eyes on the other side of the court- where the 
landlady manipulated the apricots. 

287 



FOUR MEETINGS 

But I saw that, poor dear, she wasn't thinking of 
apricots or even of landladies. She was staring ab- 
sently, thoughtfully; on a nearer view I could have 
certified she had been crying. I had seated myself 
beside her before she was aware; then, when she 
had done so, she simply turned round without 
surprise and showed me her sad face. Something 
very bad indeed had happened; she was com- 
pletely changed, and I immediately charged her with 
it. "Your cousin has been giving you bad news. 
You've had a horrid time." 

For a moment she said nothing, and I supposed her 
afraid to speak lest her tears should again rise. Then 
it came to me that even in the few hours since my 
leaving her she had shed them all — which made her 
now intensely, stoically composed. "My poor cousin 
has been having one," she replied at last. " He has had 
great worries. His news was bad." Then after a dis- 
mally conscious wait : " He was in dreadful want of 
money." 

" In want of yours, you mean ? " 

"Of any he could get — honourably of course. 
Mine is all — well, that's available." 

Ah it was as if I had been sure from the first ! "And 
he has taken it from you ? " 

Again she hung fire, but her face meanwhile was 
pleading. " I gave him what I had." 

I recall the accent of those words as the most an- 
gelic human sound I had ever listened to — which is 
exactly why I jumped up almost with a sense of per- 
sonal outrage. "Gracious goodness, madam, do you 
call that his getting it ' honourably ' ? " 

288 



FOUR MEETINGS 

I had gone too far — she coloured to her eyes. " We 
won't speak of it." 

"We must speak of it," I declared as I dropped 
beside her again. " I 'm your friend — upon my word 
I'm your protector; it seems to me you need one. 
What 's the matter with this extraordinary person ? " 

She was perfectly able to say. "He's just badly in 
debt." 

"No doubt he is! But what's the special propriety 
of your — in such tearing haste ! — paying for that ? " 

"Well, he has told me all his story. I feel for him so 
much." 

"So do I, if you come to that! But I hope," I 
roundly added, "he'll give you straight back your 
money." 

As to this she was prompt. " Certainly he will — as 
soon as ever he can." 

"And when the deuce will that be ?" 

Her lucidity maintained itself. "When he has 
finished his great picture." 

It took me full in the face. " My dear young lady, 
damn his great picture! Where is this voracious 
man.?" 

It was as if she must let me feel a moment that I did 
push her ! — though indeed, as appeared, he was just 
where he'd naturally be. "He's having his dinner." 

I turned about and looked through the open door 
into the salle-a-manger. There, sure enough, alone 
at the end of a long table, was the object of my friend's 
compassion — the bright, the kind young art-student. 
He was dining too attentively to notice me at first, but 
in the act of setting down a well-emptied wine-glass 

289 



FOUR MEETINGS 

he caught sight of my air of observation. He paused 
in his repast and, with his head on one side and his 
meagre jaws slowly moving, fixedly returned my 
gaze. Then the landlady came brushing lightly by 
with her pyramid of apricots. 

"And that nice little plate of fruit is for him ?" I 
wailed. 

Miss Spencer glanced at it tenderly. "They seem 
to arrange everything so nicely ! " she simply sighed. 

I felt helpless and irritated. "Come now, really," 
I said; "do you think it right, do you think it de- 
cent, that that long strong fellow should collar your 
funds ? " She looked away from me — I was evidently 
giving her pain. The case was hopeless; the long 
strong fellow had "interested" her. 

" Pardon me if I speak of him so unceremoniously," 
I said. "But you're really too generous, and he 
has n't, clearly, the rudiments of delicacy. He made 
his debts himself — he ought to pay them himself." 

"He has been foolish," she obstinately said — "of 
course I know that. He has told me everything. We 
had a long talk this morning — the poor fellow threw 
himself on my charity. He has signed notes to a large 
amount." 

"The more fool he!" 

"He's in real distress — and it's not only himself. 
It 's his poor young wife." 

"Ah he has a poor young wife ?" 

" I did n't know — but he made a clean breast of it. 
He married two years since — secretly." 

"Why secretly?" 

My informant took precautions as if she feared 
290 



FOUR MEETINGS 

listeners. Then with low impressiveness : "She was 
a Countess!" 

"Are you very sure of that ? " 

"She has written me the most beautiful letter." 

"Asking you — whom she has never seen — for 
money ? " 

"Asking me for confidence and sympathy" — Miss 
Spencer spoke now with spirit. " She has been cruelly 
treated by her family — in consequence of what she 
has done for him. My cousin has told me every par- 
ticular, and she appeals to me in her own lovely way 
in the letter, which I 've here in my pocket. It 's such 
a wonderful old-world romance," said my prodigious 
friend. "She was a beautiful young widow — her 
first husband was a Count, tremendously high-born, 
but really most wicked, with whom she had n't been 
happy and whose death had left her ruined after he 
had deceived her in all sorts of ways. My poor cousin, 
meeting her in that situation and perhaps a little too 
recklessly pitying her and charmed with her, found 
her, don't you see ? " — Caroline's appeal on this 
head was amazing ! — " but too ready to trust a better 
man after all she had been through. Only when her 
'people,' as he says — and I do like the word! — 
understood she would have him, poor gifted young 
American art-student though he simply was, because 
she just adored him, her great-aunt, the old Mar- 
quise, from whom she had expectations of wealth 
which she could yet sacrifice for her love, utterly cast 
her off and would n't so much as speak to her, much 
less to him, in their dreadful haughtiness and pride. 
They can be haughty over here, it seems," she in- 

291 



FOUR MEETINGS 

effably developed — "there's no mistake about that! 
It's like something in some famous old book. The 
family, my cousin's wife's," she by this time almost 
complacently wound up, "are of the oldest Provencal 
noblesse." 

I listened half-bewildered. The poor woman pos- 
itively found it so interesting to be swindled by a 
flower of that stock — if stock or flower or solitary 
grain of truth was really concerned in the matter — 
as practically to have lost the sense of what the for- 
feiture of her hoard meant for her. " My dear young 
lady," I groaned, "you don't want to be stripped of 
every dollar for such a rigmarole ! " 
, She asserted, at this, her dignity — much as a small 
pink shorn lamb might have done. "It is n't a rig- 
marole, and I shan't be stripped. I shan't live any 
worse than I have lived, don't you see ? And I '11 come 
back before long to stay with them. The Countess — 
he still gives her, he says, her title, as they do to noble 
widows, that is to 'dowagers,' don't you know? in 
England — insists on a visit from me some time. So I 
guess for that I can start afresh — and meanwhile I '11 
have recovered my money." 

/ It was all too heart-breaking. "You 're going home 
Vhen at once ? " 

I felt the faint tremor of voice she heroically tried to 
stifle. "I've nothing left for a tour." 

"You gave it all up?" 

"I've kept enough to take me back." 

I uttered, I think, a positive howl, and at this junc- 
ture the hero of the situation, the happy proprietor of 
my little friend's sacred savings and of the infatuated 

292 



FOUR MEETINGS 

grande dame just sketched for me, reappeared with 
the clear consciousness of a repast bravely earned and 
consistently enjoyed. He stood on the threshold an 
instant, extracting the stone from a plump apricot he 
had fondly retained ; then he put the apricot into his 
mouth and, while he let it gratefully dissolve there, 
stood looking at us with his long legs apart and his 
hands thrust into the pockets of his velvet coat. My 
companion got up, giving him a thin glance that I 
caught in its passage and which expressed at once 
resignation and fascination — the last dregs of her 
sacrifice and with it an anguish of upHftedness. Ugly 
vulgar pretentious dishonest as I thought him, and 
destitute of every grace of plausibility, he had yet ap- 
pealed successfully to her eager and tender imagina- 
tion. I was deeply disgusted, but I had no warrant to 
interfere, and at any rate felt that it would be vain. 
He waved his hand meanwhile with a breadth of ap- 
preciation. "Nice old court. Nice mellow old place. 
Nice crooked old staircase. Several pretty things." 

Decidedly I could n't stand it, and without re- 
sponding I gave my hand to my friend. She looked at 
me an instant with her little white face and rounded 
eyes, and as she showed her pretty teeth I suppose she 
meant to smile. "Don't be sorry for me," she sub- 
limely pleaded; "I'm very sure I shall see something 
of this dear old Europe yet." 

I refused however to take literal leave of her — I 
should find a moment to come back next morning. 
Her awful kinsman, who had put on his sombrero 
again, flourished it off at me by way of a bow — on 
which I hurried away. 

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FOUR MEETINGS 

On the morrow early I did return, and in the court 
of the inn met the landlady, more loosely laced than in 
the evening. On my asking for Miss Spencer, "Pariie, 
monsieur," the good woman said. "She went away 
last night at ten o'clock, with her — her — not her 
husband, eh ? — in fine her Monsieur. They went 
down to the American ship." I turned off — I felt the 
tears in my eyes. The poor girl had been some thirteen 
hours in Europe. 



IV 

I MYSELF, more fortunate, continued to sacrifice to 
opportunity as I myself met it. During this period — 
of some five years — I lost my friend Latouche, who 
died of a malarious fever during a tour in the Levant. 
One of the first things I did on my return to America 
was to go up to North Verona on a consolatory visit to 
his poor mother. I found her in deep affliction and sat 
with her the whole of the morning that followed my 
arrival — I had come in late at night — listening to 
her tearful descant and singing the praises of my 
friend. We talked of nothing else, and our conversa- 
tion ended only with the arrival of a quick little wo- 
man who drove herself up to the door in a "carry-all " 
and whom I saw toss the reins to the horse's back with 
the briskness of a startled sleeper throwing off the bed- 
clothes. She jumped out of the carry-all and she 
jumped into the room. She proved to be the minis- 
ter's wife and the great town-gossip, and she had ev- 
idently, in the latter capacity, a choice morsel to com- 
municate. I was as sure of this as I was that poor 
Mrs, Latouche was not absolutely too bereaved to 
listen to her. It seemed to me discreet to retire, and I 
described myself as anxious for a walk before dinner. 

"And by the way," I added, "if you'll tell me 
where my old friend Miss Spencer lives I think I '11 
call on her." 

The minister's wife immediately responded. Miss 
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FOUR MEETINGS 

Spencer lived in the fourth house beyond the Baptist 
church ; the Baptist church was the one on the right, 
with that queer green thing over the door; they called 
it a portico, but it looked more like an old-fashioned 
bedstead swung in the air. "Yes, do look up poor 
Caroline," Mrs. Latouche further enjoined. "It will 
refresh her to see a strange face." 

"I should think she had had enough of strange 
faces ! " cried the minister's wife. 

" To see, I mean, a charming visitor " — Mrs. 
Latouche amended her phrase. 

"I should think she had had enough of charming 
visitors ! " her companion returned. " But you don't 
mean to stay ten years," she added with significant 
eyes on me. 

" Has she a visitor of that sort ? " I asked in my 
ignorance. 

"You'll make out the sort!" said the minister's 
wife. " She 's easily seen ; she generally sits in the front 
yard. Only take care what you say to her, and be very 
sure you 're polite." 

"Ah she's so sensitive?" 

The minister's wife jumped up and dropped me a 
curtsey — a most sarcastic curtsey. " That 's what she 
is, if you please. 'Madame la Comtesse!'" 

And pronouncing these titular words with the most 
scathing accent, the little woman seemed fairly to 
laugh in the face of the lady they designated. I stood 
staring, wondering, remembering. 

"Oh I shall be very polite!" I cried; and, grasping 
my hat and stick, I went on my way. 

I found Miss Spencer's residence without difficulty. 
296 



FOUR MEETINGS 

The Baptist church was easily identified, and the 
small dwelling near it, of a rusty white, with a large 
central chimney-stack and a Virginia creeper, seemed 
naturally and properly the abode of a withdrawn old 
maid with a taste for striking effects inexpensively ob- 
tained. As I approached I slackened my pace, for I 
had heard that some one was always sitting in the 
front yard, and I wished to reconnoitre. I looked 
cautiously over the low white fence that separated the 
small garden-space from the unpaved street, but I 
descried nothing in the shape of a Comtesse. A small 
straight path led up to the crooked door-step, on 
either side of which was a little grass-plot fringed with 
currant-bushes. In the middle of the grass, right and 
left, was a large quince-tree, full of antiquity and con- 
tortions, and beneath one of the quince-trees were 
placed a small table and a couple of light chairs. On 
the table lay a piece of unfinished embroidery and two 
or three books in bright-coloured paper covers. I 
went in at the gate and paused halfway along the 
path, scanning the place for some further token of its 
occupant, before whom — I could hardly have said 
why — I hesitated abruptly to present myself. Then I 
saw the poor little house to be of the shabbiest and felt 
a sudden doubt of my right to penetrate, since curios- 
ity had been my motive and curiosity here failed of 
confidence. While I demurred a figure appeared in 
the open doorway and stood there looking at me. I 
immediately recognised Miss Spencer, but she faced 
me as if we had never met. Gently, but gravely and 
timidly, I advanced to the door-step, where I spoke 
with an attempt at friendly banter. 

297 



FOUR MEETINGS 
' I waited for you over there to come back, but you 



never came." 



"Waited where, sir ?" she quavered, her innocent 
eyes rounding themselves as of old. She was much 
older; she looked tired and wasted. 

"Well," I said, "I waited at the old French port." 

She stared harder, then recognised me, smiling, 
flushing, clasping her two hands together. "I re- 
member you now — I remember that day." But she 
stood there, neither coming out nor asking me to come 
in. She was embarrassed. 

I too felt a little awkward while I poked at the path 
with my stick. " I kept looking out for you year after 
year." 

"You mean in Europe?" she ruefully breathed. 

" In Europe of course ! Here apparently you 're easy 
enough to find." 

She leaned her hand against the unpainted door- 
post and her head fell a little to one side. She looked 
at me thus without speaking, and I caught the expres- 
sion visible in women's eyes when tears are rising. 
Suddenly she stepped out on the cracked slab of stone 
before her threshold and closed the door. Then her 
strained smile prevailed and I saw her teeth were as 
pretty as ever. But there had been tears too. " Have 
you been there ever since ? " she lowered her voice to 
ask. 

"Until three weeks ago. And you — you never 
came back ? " 

Still shining at me as she could, she put her hand 
behind her and reopened the door. "I'm not very 
polite," she said. "Won't you come in ?" 

298 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"I'm afraid I incommode you." 

" Oh no ! " — she would n't hear of it now. And she 
pushed back the door with a sign that I should enter. 

I followed her in. She led the way to a small room 
on the left of the narrow hall, which I supposed to be 
her parlour, though it was at the back of the house, 
and we passed the closed door of another apartment 
which apparently enjoyed a view of the quince-trees. 
This one looked out upon a small wood-shed and two 
clucking hens. But I thought it pretty until I saw its 
elegance to be of the most frugal kind ; after which, 
presently, I thought it prettier still, for I had never 
seen faded chintz and old mezzotint engravings, 
framed in varnished autumn leaves, disposed with so 
touching a grace. Miss Spencer sat down on a very 
small section of the sofa, her hands tightly clasped in 
her lap. She looked ten years older, and I need n't 
now have felt called to insist on the facts of her person. 
But I still thought them interesting, and at any rate 
I was moved by them. She was peculiarly agitated. I 
tried to appear not to notice it; but suddenly, in the 
most inconsequent fashion — it was an irresistible 
echo of our concentrated passage in the old French 
port — I said to her: "I do incommode you. Again 
you're in distress." 

She raised her two hands to her face and for a mo- 
ment kept it buried in them. Then taking them away, 
"It's because you remind me," she said. 

" I remind you, you mean, of that miserable day at 
the Havre?" 

She wonderfully shook her head. " It was n't mis- 
erable. It was delightful." 

299 



FOUR MEETINGS 

Ah was it ? my manner of receiving this must have 
commented. "I never was so shocked as when, on 
going back to your inn the next morning, I found you 
had wretchedly retreated." 

She waited an instant, after which she said : " Please 
let us not speak of that." 

" Did you come straight back here ? " I nevertheless 
went on. 

"I was back here just thirty days after my first 
start." 

"And here you've remained ever since?" 

" Every minute of the time." 

I took it in ; I did n't know what to say, and what 
I presently said had almost the sound of mockery. 
"When then are you going to make that tour ?" It 
might be practically aggressive ; but there was some- 
thing that irritated me in her depths of resignation, 
and I wished to extort from her some expression of 
impatience. 

She attached her eyes a moment to a small sun- 
spot on the carpet; then she got up and lowered the 
window-blind a little to obliterate it. I waited, 
watching her with interest — as if she had still some- 
thing more to give me. Well, presently, in answer to 
my last question, she gave it. "Never!" 

"I hope at least your cousin repaid you that 
money," I said. 

At this again she looked away from me. " I don't 
care for it now." 

"You don't care for your money?" 

"For ever going to Europe." 

" Do you mean you would n't go if you could ? " 
300 



FOUR MEETINGS 



«'i 



'I can't — I can't," said Caroline Spencer. "It's 
all over. Everything's different. I never think 
of it." 

"The scoundrel never repaid you then!" I cried. 

"Please, please — !" she began. 

But she had stopped — she was looking toward the 
door. There had been a rustle and a sound of steps in 
the hall. 

I also looked toward the door, which was open and 
now admitted another person — a lady who paused 
just within the threshold. Behind her came a young 
man. The lady looked at me with a good deal of 
fixedness — long enough for me to rise to a vivid im- 
pression of herself. Then she turned to Caroline Spen- 
cer and, with a smile and a strong foreign accent, 
"Pardon, ma chere ! I did n't know you had com- 
pany," she said. "The gentleman came in so quietly." 
With which she again gave me the benefit of her at- 
tention. She was very strange, yet I was at once sure 
I had seen her before. Afterwards I rather put it that 
I had only seen ladies remarkably like her. But I had 
seen them very far away from North Verona, and it 
was the oddest of all things to meet one of them in 
that frame. To what quite other scene did the sight of 
her transport me ? To some dusky landing before a 
shabby Parisian quatrieme — to an open door reveal- 
ing a greasy ante-chamber and to Madame leaning 
over the banisters while she holds a faded wrapper 
together and bawls down to the portress to bring up 
her coffee. My friend's guest was a very large lady, of 
middle age, with a plump dead-white face and hair 
drawn back a la chinoise. She had a small penetrating 

301 



FOUR MEETINGS 

eye and what is called in French le sourire agrealle. 
She wore an old pink cashmere dressing-gown cov- 
ered with white embroideries, and, like the figure in 
my momentary vision, she confined it in front with a 
bare and rounded arm and a plump and deeply- 
dimpled hand. 

"It's only to spick about my cafe," she said to her 
hostess with her sourire agreahle. "I should like it 
served in the garden under the leetle tree." 

The young man behind her had now stepped into 
the room, where he also stood revealed, though with 
rather less of a challenge. He was a gentleman of few 
inches but a vague importance, perhaps the leading 
man of the world of North Verona. He had a small 
pointed nose and a small pointed chin ; also, as I ob- 
served, the most diminutive feet and a manner of no 
point at all. He looked at me foolishly and with his 
mouth open. 

"You shall have your coffee," said Miss Spencer as 
if an army of cooks had been engaged in the prepara- 
tion of it. 

"C'est bien ! " said her massive inmate. " Find your 
bouk " — and this personage turned to the gaping 
youth. 

He gaped now at each quarter of the room. "My 
grammar, d' ye mean ? " 

The large lady however could but face her friend's 
visitor while persistently engaged with a certain 
laxity in the flow of her wrapper. "Find your bouk," 
she more absently repeated. 

"My poetry, d'ye mean?" said the young man, 
who also could n't take his eyes off me. 

302 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"Never mind your bouk" — his companion recon- 
sidered. "To-day we'll just talk. We'll make some 
conversation. But we must n't interrupt Mademoi- 
selle's. Come, come " — and she moved off a step. 
"Under the leetle tree," she added for the benefit of 
Mademoiselle. After which she gave me a thin saluta- 
tion, jerked a measured " Monsieur ! " and swept away 
again with her swain following. 

I looked at Miss Spencer, whose eyes never moved 
from the carpet, and I spoke, I fear, without grace. 
"Who in the world's that?" 

"The Comtesse — that was : my cousine as they 
call it in French." 

"And who's the young man ?" 

"The Countess's pupil, Mr. Mixter." This de- 
scription of the tie uniting the two persons who had 
just quitted us must certainly have upset my gravity ; 
for I recall the marked increase of my friend's own as 
she continued to explain. "She gives lessons in French 
and music, the simpler sorts — " 

" The simpler sorts of French ? " I fear I broke in. 

But she was still impenetrable, and in fact had now 
an intonation that put me vulgarly in the wrong. " She 
has had the worst reverses — with no one to look to. 
She 's prepared for any exertion — and she takes her 
misfortunes with gaiety." 

"Ah well," I returned — no doubt a little ruefully, 
"that's all I myself am pretending to do. If she's 
determined to be a burden to nobody, nothing could 
be more right and proper." 

My hostess looked vaguely, though I thought quite 
wearily enough, about : she met this proposition in no 

303 



FOUR MEETINGS 

other way. " I must go and get the coffee," she simply 
said. 

"Has the lady many pupils ?" I none the less per- 
sisted. 

"She has only Mr. Mixter. She gives him all her 
time." It might have set me off again, but something 
in my whole impression of my friend's sensibility 
urged me to keep strictly decent. "He pays very 
well," she at all events inscrutably went on. "He's 
not very bright — as a pupil ; but he 's very rich and 
he 's very kind. He has a buggy — with a back, and 
he takes the Countess to drive." 

"For good long spells I hope," I could n't help in- 
terjecting — even at the cost of her so taking it that 
she had still to avoid my eyes. "Well, the country's 
beautiful for miles," I went on. And then as she was 
turning away: "You're going for the Countess's 
coffee?" 

" If you '11 excuse me a few moments." 

" Is there no one else to do it ? " 

She seemed to wonder who there should be. "I 
keep no servants." 

"Then can't I help?" After which, as she but 
looked at me, I bettered it. "Can't she wait on her- 
self?" 

Miss Spencer had a slow headshake — as if that 
too had been a strange idea. "She isn't used to 
manual labour." 

The discrimination was a treat, but I cultivated de- 
corum. " I see — and you are." But at the same time 
I could n't abjure curiosity. " Before you go, at any 
rate, please tell me this : who is this wonderful lady ? " 

304 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"I told you just who in France — that extraor- 
dinary day. She *s the wife of my cousin, whom you 
saw there." 

"The lady disowned by her family in consequence 
of her marriage ? " 

" Yes ; they 've never seen her again. They 've com- 
pletely broken with her." 

"And where 's her husband?" 

"My poor cousin's dead." 

I pulled up, but only a moment. "And where 's 
your money ? " 

The poor thing flinched — I kept her on the rack. 
"I don't know," she woefully said. 

I scarce know what it did n't prompt me to — but 
I went step by step. "On her husband's death this 
lady at once came to you ? " 

It was as if she had had too often to describe it. 
"Yes, she arrived one day." 

" How long ago ? " 

"Two years and four months." 

"And has been here ever since?" 

"Ever since." 

I took it all in. "And how does she like it ?" 

"Well, not very much," said Miss Spencer di- 
vinely. 

That too I took in. "And how do you — ?" 

She laid her face in her two hands an instant as 
she had done ten minutes before. Then, quickly, she 
went to get the Countess's coff"ee. 

Left alone in the little parlour I found myself 
divided between the perfection of my disgust and a 
contrary wish to see, to learn more. At the end of a 

305 



FOUR MEETINGS 

few minutes the young man in attendance on the lady 
in question reappeared as for a fresh gape at me. He 
was inordinately grave — to be dressed in such parti- 
coloured flannels; and he produced with no great con- 
fidence on his own side the message with which he had 
been charged. " She wants to know if you won't come 
right out." 

"Who wants to know?" 

"The Countess. That French lady." 

"She has asked you to bring me ?" 

"Yes sir," said the young man feebly — for I 
may claim to have surpassed him in stature and 
weight. 

I went out with him, and we found his instructress 
seated under one of the small quince-trees in front of 
the house ; where she was engaged in drawing a fine 
needle with a very fat hand through a piece of em- 
broidery not remarkable for freshness. She pointed 
graciously to the chair beside her and I sat down. Mr. 
Mixter glanced about him and then accommodated 
himself on the grass at her feet ; whence he gazed up- 
ward more gapingly than ever and as if convinced 
that between us something wonderful would now 
occur. 

" I 'm sure you spick French," said the Countess, 
whose eyes were singularly protuberant as she played 
over me her agreeable smile. 

"I do, madam — tant bien que tnal" I replied, I 
fear, more dryly. 

"Ah voila ! " she cried as with delight. " I knew it 
as soon as I looked at you. You 've been in my poor 
dear country." 

306 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"A considerable time." 

" You love it then, mon pays de France ? " 

"Oh it's an old affection." But I was n't exuber- 
ant. 

"And you know Paris well?" 

"Yes, sans me vanter, madam, I think I really do." 
And with a certain conscious purpose I let my eyes 
meet her own. 

She presently, hereupon, moved her own and 
glanced down at Mr. Mixter. "What are we talking 
about ? " she demanded of her attentive pupil. 

He pulled his knees up, plucked at the grass, 
stared, blushed a little. "You're talking French," 
said Mr. Mixter. 

"Lahelle decouverte!" mocked the Countess. "It's 
going on ten months," she explained to me, "since 
I took him in hand. Don't put yourself out not to 
say he 's la betise meme," she added in fine style. "He 
won't in the least understand you." 

A moment's consideration of Mr. Mixter, awk- 
wardly sporting at our feet, quite assured me that he 
would n't. " I hope your other pupils do you more 
honour," I then remarked to my entertainer. 

"I have no others. They don't know what French 
— or what anything else — is in this place; they don't 
want to know. You may therefore imagine the pleas- 
ure it is to me to meet a person who speaks it like 
yourself." I could but reply that my own pleasure 
was n't less, and she continued to draw the stitches 
through her embroidery with an elegant curl of her 
little finger. Every few moments she put her eyes, 
near-sightedly, closer to her work — this as if for 

307 



FOUR MEETINGS 

elegance too. She inspired me with no more confid- 
ence than her late husband, if husband he was, had 
done, years before, on the occasion with which this 
one so detestably matched : she was coarse, common, 
affected, dishonest — no more a Countess than I was 
a Caliph. She had an assurance — based clearly on 
experience; but this couldn't have been the experi- 
ence of "race." Whatever it was indeed it did now, 
in a yearning fashion, flare out of her. "Talk to me 
of Paris, mon beau Paris that I 'd give my eyes to 
see. The very name of it me fait languir. How long 
since you were there ? " 

"A couple of months ago." 

" Vous avez de la chance! Tell me something about 
it. What were they doing ? Oh for an hour of the 
Boulevard!" 

" They were doing about what they 're always doing 
— amusing themselves a good deal." 

"At the theatres, hein?" sighed the Countess. "At 
the cafes-concerts ? sous ce beau del — at the little 
tables before the doors ? Quelle existence! You know 
I'm a Parisienne, monsieur," she added, "to my 
finger-tips." 

"Miss Spencer was mistaken then," I ventured to 
return, "in telling me you're a Proven^ale." 

She stared a moment, then put her nose to her 
embroidery, which struck me as having acquired even 
while we sat a dingier and more desultory air. "Ah 
I'm a Provencale by birth, but a Parisienne by — 
inclination." After which she pursued : "And by the 
saddest events of my life — as well as by some of the 
happiest, helas!" 

308 



FOUR MEETINGS 

"In other words by a varied experience!" I now 
at last smiled. 

She questioned me over It with her hard little 
salient eyes. "Oh experience ! — I could talk of that, 
no doubt, if I wished. On en a de toutes les sortes — 
and I never dreamed that mine, for example, would 
ever have this in store for me." And she indicated 
with her large bare elbow and with a jerk of her head 
all surrounding objects; the little white house, the 
pair of quince-trees, the rickety paling, even the rapt 
Mr. Mixter. 

I took them all bravely in. "Ah if you mean you 're 
decidedly in exile — !" 

"You may imagine what it is. These two years of 
my epreuve — elles m'en ont donnees, des heures, des 
heures! One gets used to things " — and she raised 
her shoulders to the highest shrug ever accomplished 
at North Verona ; " so that I sometimes think I 've got 
used to this. But there are some things that are always 
beginning again. For example my coffee." 

I so far again lent myself. "Do you always have 
coffee at this hour ? " 

Her eyebrows went up as high as her shoulders had 
done. "At what hour would you propose to me to 
have it ? I must have my little cup after breakfast," 

"Ah you breakfast at this hour?" 

"At mid-day — comme cela se fait. Here they 
breakfast at a quarter past seven. That 'quarter 
past' is charming!" 

" But you were telling, me about your coffee," I ob- 
served sympathetically. 

"My cQusine can't believe in it; she can't under- 

309 



FOUR MEETINGS 

stand it. "C'est une fille charmante, but that little 
cup of black coffee with a drop of 'fine,' served at this 
hour — they exceed her comprehension. So I have 
to break the ice each day, and it takes the coffee the 
time you see to arrive. And when it does arrive, mon- 
sieur — ! If I don't press it on you — though mon- 
sieur here sometimes joins me ! — it 's because you 've 
drunk it on the Boulevard." 

I resented extremely so critical a view of my poor 
friend's exertions, but I said nothing at all — the 
only way to be sure of my civility. I dropped my 
eyes on Mr. Mixter, who, sitting cross-legged and 
nursing his knees, watched my companion's foreign 
graces with an interest that familiarity had apparently 
done little to restrict. She became aware, naturally, 
of my mystified view of him and faced the question 
with all her boldness. "He adores me, you know," 
she murmured with her nose again in her tapestry — 
"he dreams of becoming mon amour eux. Yes, il me 
fait une cour acharnee — such as you see him. That's 
what we 've come to. He has read some French novel 
— it took him six months. But ever since that he has 
thought himself a hero and me — such as I am, mon- 
sieur — je ne sais quelle devergondee ! " 

Mr. Mixter may have inferred that he was to that 
extent the object of our reference ; but of the manner 
in which he was handled he must have had small 
suspicion — preoccupied as he was, as to my com- 
panion, with the ecstasy of contemplation. Our 
hostess moreover at this moment came out of the 
house, bearing a coflFee-pot and three cups on a neat 
little tray. I took from her eyes, as she approached 

310 



FOUR MEETINGS 

us, a brief but intense appeal — the mute expression, 
as I felt, conveyed in the hardest little look she had 
yet addressed me, of her longing to know what, as a 
man of the world in general and of the French world 
in particular, I thought of these allied forces now so 
encamped on the stricken field of her life. I could 
only "act" however, as they said at North Verona, 
quite impenetrably — only make no answering sign. 
I could n't intimate, much less could I frankly utter, 
my inward sense of the Countess's probable past, with 
its measure of her virtue, value and accomplishments, 
and of the limits of the consideration to which she 
could properly pretend. I could n't give my friend a 
hint of how I myself personally " saw " her interest- 
ing pensioner — whether as the runaway wife of a 
too-jealous hair-dresser or of a too-morose pastry- 
cook, say ; whether as a very small bourgeoise, in fine, 
who had vitiated her case beyond patching up, or 
even as some character, of the nomadic sort, less 
edifying still. I could n't let in, by the jog of a shut- 
ter, as it were, a hard informing ray and then, wash- 
ing my hands of the business, turn my back for ever. 
I could on the contrary but save the situation, my 
own at least, for the moment, by pulling myself 
together with a master hand and appearing to ignore 
everything but that the dreadful person between us 
was a "grande dame." This effort was possible in- 
deed but as a retreat in good order and with all the 
forms of courtesy. If I could n't speak, still less could 
I stay, and I think I must, in spite of everything, have 
turned black with disgust to see Caroline Spencer 
stand there like a waiting-maid. I therefore won't 

3" 



FOUR MEETINGS 

answer for the shade of success that may have at- 
tended my saying to the Countess, on my feet and as 
to leave her: "You expect to remain some time in 
these parages?" 

What passed between us, as from face to face, 
while she looked up at me, that at least our companion 
may have caught, that at least may have sown, for the 
after-time, some seed of revelation. The Countess 
repeated her terrible shrug. "Who knows ? I don't 
see my way — ! It is n't an existence, biit when one 's 
in misery — ! Chere belle," she added as an appeal to 
Miss Spencer, "you 've gone and forgotten the 'fine'V 

I detained that lady as, after considering a moment 
in silence the small array, she was about to turn off 
in quest of this article. I held out my hand in silence 
— I had to go. Her wan set little face, severely mild 
and with the question of a moment before now quite 
cold in it, spoke of extreme fatigue, but also of some- 
thing else strange and conceived — whether a desper- 
ate patience still, or at last some other desperation, 
being more than I can say. What was clearest on 
the whole was that she was glad I was going. Mr. 
Mfxter had risen to his feet and was pouring out the 
Countess's coffee. As I went back past the Baptist 
church I could feel how right my poor friend had 
been in her conviction at the other, the still intenser, 
the now historic crisis, that she should still see some- 
thing of that dear old Europe. 



PASTE 



PASTE 

"I 'vE found a lot more things," her cousin said to her 
the day after the second funeral; "they're up in her 
room — but they 're things I wish you 'd look at." 

The pair of mourners, sufficiently stricken, were in 
the garden of the vicarage together, before luncheon, 
waiting to be summoned to that meal, and Arthur 
Prime had still in his face the intention, she was 
moved to call it rather than the expression, of feeling 
something or other. Some such appearance was in 
itself of course natural within a week of his step- 
mother's death, within three of his father's; but 
what was most present to the girl, herself sensitive 
and shrewd, was that he seemed somehow to brood 
without sorrow, to suffer without what she in her 
own case would have called pain. He turned away 
from her after this last speech — it was a good deal 
his habit to drop an observation and leave her to pick 
it up without assistance. If the vicar's widow, now 
in her turn finally translated, had not really belonged 
to him it was not for want of her giving herself, so far 
as he ever would take her ; and she had lain for three 
days all alone at the end of the passage, in the great 
cold chamber of hospitality, the dampish greenish 
room where visitors slept and where several of the 
ladies of the parish had, without effect, offered, in 
pairs and successions, piously to watch with her. His 
personal connexion with the parish was now slighter 

315 



PASTE 

than ever, and he had really not waited for this op- 
portunity to show the ladies what he thought of them. 
She felt that she herself had, during her doleful 
month's leave from Bleet, where she was governess, 
rather taken her place in the same snubbed order; but 
it was presently, none th'e less, with a better little hope 
of coming in for some remembrance, some relic, that 
she went up to look at the things he had spoken of, the 
identity of which, as a confused cluster of bright ob- 
jects on a table in the darkened room, shimmered at 
her as soon as she had opened the door. 

They met her eyes for the first time, but in a mo- 
ment, before touching them, she knew them as things 
of the theatre, as very much too fine to have been with 
any verisimilitude things of the vicarage. They were 
too dreadfully good to be true, for her aunt had had 
no jewels to speak of, and these were coronets and 
girdles, diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Flagrant 
tinsel and glass, they looked strangely vulgar, but if 
after the first queer shock of them she found herself 
taking them up it was for the very proof, never yet so 
distinct to her, of a far-off faded story. An honest 
widowed cleric with a small son and a large sense of 
Shakespeare had, on a brave latitude of habit as well 
as of taste — since it implied his having in very fact 
dropped deep into the " pit " — conceived for an ob- 
scure actress several years older than himself an ad- 
miration of which the prompt offer of his reverend 
name and hortatory hand was the sufficiently candid 
sign. -The response had perhaps in those dim years, 
so far as eccentricity was concerned, even bettered the 
proposal, and Charlotte, turning the tale over, had 

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long since drawn from it a measure of the career re- 
nounced by the undistinguished comedienne — doubt- 
less also tragic, or perhaps pantomimic, at a pinch — 
of her late uncle's dreams. This career could n't have 
been eminent and must much more probably have 
been comfortless. 

"You see what it is — old stuff of the time she 
never liked to mention." 

Our young woman gave a start; her companion 
had after all rejoined her and had apparently watched 
a moment her slightly scared recognition. "So I said 
to myself," she replied. Then to show intelligence, 
yet keep clear of twaddle : " How peculiar they look ! " 

"They look awful," said Arthur Prime. "Cheap 
gilt, diamonds as big as potatoes. These are trap- 
pings of a ruder age than ours. Actors do themselves 
better now." 

" Oh now," said Charlotte, not to be less knowing, 
"actresses have real diamonds." 

"Some of them." Arthur spoke dryly. 

"I mean the bad ones — the nobodies too." 

"Oh some of the nobodies have the biggest. But 
mamma was n't of that sort." 

"A nobody?" Charlotte risked. 

" Not a nobody to whom somebody — well, not a 
nobody with diamonds. It is n't all worth, this trash, 
five pounds." 

There was something in the old gewgaws that 
spoke to her, and she continued to turn them over. 
"They're relics. I think they have their melancholy 
and even their dignity." 

Arthur observed another pause. "Do you care 

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for them ?" he then asked. "I mean," he promptly 
added, "as a souvenir." 

"Of you ?" Charlotte threw off. 

"Of me? What have I to do with it ? Of your poor 
dead aunt who was so kind to you," he said with 
virtuous sternness. 

"Well, I'd rather have them than nothing." 

"Then please take them," he returned in a tone of 
relief which expressed somehow more of the eager 
than of the gracious. 

"Thank you." Charlotte lifted two or three objects 
up and set them down again. Though they were 
lighter than the materials they imitated they were 
so much more extravagant that they struck her in 
truth as rather an awkward heritage, to which she 
might have preferred even a matchbox or a penwiper. 
They were indeed shameless pinchbeck. "Had you 
any idea she had kept them ? " 

"I don't at all believe she had kept them or knew 
they were there, and I 'm very sure my father did n't. 
They had quite equally worked off any tenderness 
for the connexion. These odds and ends, which she 
thought had been given away or destroyed, had simply 
got thrust into a dark corner and been forgotten." 

Charlotte wondered. "Where then did you find 
them?" 

" In that old tin box " — and the young man 
pointed to the receptacle from which he had dis- 
lodged them and which stood on a neighbouring chair. 
" It 's rather a good box still, but I 'm afraid I can't 
give you that." 

The girl took no heed of the box; she continued 
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only to look at the trinkets. "What corner had she 
found?" 

" She had n't ' found ' it," her companion sharply 
insisted; "she had simply lost it. The whole thing 
had passed from her mind. The box was on the top 
shelf of the old school-room closet, which, until one 
put one's head into it from a step-ladder, looked, 
from below, quite cleared out. The door's narrow 
and the part of the closet to the left goes well into the 
wall. The box had stuck there for years." 

Charlotte was conscious of a mind divided and a 
vision vaguely troubled, and once more she took up 
two or three of the subjects of this revelation ; a big 
bracelet in the form of a gilt serpent with many 
twists and beady eyes, a brazen belt studded with 
emeralds and rubies, a chain, of flamboyant archi- 
tecture, to which, at the Theatre Royal Little Pedd- 
lington, Hamlet's mother must have been concerned 
to attach the portrait of the successor to Hamlet's 
father. "Are you very sure they're not really worth 
something? Their mere weight alone — !" she 
vaguely observed, balancing a moment a royal diadem 
that might have crowned one of the creations of the 
famous Mrs. Jarley. 

But Arthur Prime, it was clear, had already thought 
the question over and found the answer easy. "If 
they had been worth anything to speak of she would 
long ago have sold them. My father and she had 
unfortunately never been in a position to keep any 
considerable value locked up." And while his com- 
panion took in the obvious force of this he went on 
with a flourish just marked enough not to escape her: 

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"If they're worth anything at all — why you're 
only the more welcome to them." 

Charlotte had now in her hand a small bag of 
faded figured silk — one of those antique conveniences 
that speak to us, in terms of evaporated camphor and 
lavender, of the part they have played in some per- 
sonal history ; but though she had for the first time 
drawn the string she looked much more at the young 
man than at the questionable treasure it appeared 
to contain. " I shall like them. They 're all I have." 

"All you have — ?" 

"That belonged to her." 

He swelled a little, then looked about him as if to 
appeal — as against her avidity — to the whole poor 
place. "Well, what else do you want ?" 

"Nothing. Thank you very much." With which 
she bent her eyes on the article wrapped, and now 
only exposed, in her superannuated satchel — a 
string of large pearls, such a shining circle as might 
once have graced the neck of a provincial Ophelia 
and borne company to a flaxen wig. "This perhaps 
is worth something. Feel it." And she passed him the 
necklace, the weight of which she had gathered for a 
moment into her hand. 

He measured it in the same way with his own, but 
remained quite detached. "Worth at most thirty 
shillings." 

"Not more?" 

"Surely not if it's paste?" 

" But is it paste ? " 

He gave a small sniff of impatience. " Pearls nearly 
as big as filberts ? " 

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PASTE 

" But they 're heavy," Charlotte declared. 

"No heavier than anything else." And he gave 
them back with an allowance for her simplicity. " Do 
you imagine for a moment they 're real ? " 

She studied them a little, feeling them, turning 
them round. " Might n't they possibly be ? " 

"Of that size — stuck away with that trash ?" 

"I admit it is n't likely," Charlotte presently said. 
"And pearls are so easily imitated." 

"That's just what — to a person who knows — 
they're not. These have no lustre, no play." 

"No — they are dull. They're opaque." 

" Besides," he lucidly enquired, " how could she 
ever have come by them ? " 

" Might n't they have been a present ? " 

Arthur stared at the question as if it were almost 
improper. " Because actresses are exposed — ? " He 
pulled up, however, not saying to what, and before 
she could supply the deficiency had, with the sharp 
ejaculation of "No, they might n't!" turned his back 
on her and walked away. His manner made her feel 
she had probably been wanting in tact, and before 
he returned to the subject, the last thing that evening, 
she had satisfied herself of the ground of his resent- 
ment. They had been talking of her departure the 
next morning, the hour of her train and the fly that 
would come for her, and it was precisely these things 
that gave him his effective chance. "I really can't 
allow you to leave the house under the impression that 
my stepmother was at any time of her life the sort of 
person to allow herself to be approached — " 

"With pearl necklaces and that sort of thing?" 
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PASTE 

Arthur had made for her somehow the difficulty that 
she could n't show him she understood him without 
seeming pert. 

It at any rate only added to his own gravity. 
"That sort of thing; exactly." 

" I did n't think when I spoke this morning — but 
I see what you mean." 

"I mean that she was beyond reproach," said 
Arthur Prime. 

"A hundred times yes." 

"Therefore if she could n't, out of her slender gains, 
ever have paid for a row of pearls — " 

" She could n't, in that atmosphere, ever properly 
have had one ? Of course she could n't. I 've seen 
perfectly since our talk," Charlotte went on, "that 
that string of beads is n't even as an imitation very 
good. The little clasp itself does n't seem even gold. 
With false pearls, I suppose," the girl mused, "it 
naturally would n't be." 

"The whole thing's rotten paste," her companion 
returned as if to have done with it. "If it were not, 
and she had kept it all these years hidden — " 

"Yes?" Charlotte sounded as he paused. 

"Why I should n't know what to think!" 

"Oh I see." She had met him with a certain 
blankness, but adequately enough, it seemed, for 
him to regard the subject as dismissed; and there 
was no reversion to it between them before, on the 
morrow, when she had with difficulty made a place 
for them in her trunk, she carried off these florid sur- 
vivals. 

At Bleet she found small occasion to revert to them 
322 



PASTE 

and, in an air charged with such quite other references, 
even felt, after she had laid them away, much en- 
shrouded, beneath various piles of clothing, that they 
formed a collection not wholly without its note of the 
ridiculous. Yet she was never, for the joke, tempted 
to show them to her pupils, though Gwendolen and 
Blanche in particular always wanted, on her return, 
to know what she had brought back ; so that without 
an accident by which the case was quite changed 
they might have appeared to enter on a new phase 
of interment. The essence of the accident was the 
sudden illness, at the last moment, of Lady Bobby, 
whose advent had been so much counted on to spice 
the five days' feast laid out for the coming of age of the 
eldest son of the house; and its equally marked effect 
was the dispatch of a pressing message, in quite 
another direction, to Mrs. Guy, who, could she by a 
miracle be secured — she was always engaged ten 
parties deep — might be trusted to supply, it was 
believed, an element of exuberance scarcely less pot- 
ent. Mrs. Guy was already known to several of the 
visitors already on the scene, but she was n't yet 
known to our young lady, who found her, after many 
wires and counter-wires had at last determined the 
triumph of her arrival, a strange charming little red- 
haired black-dressed woman, a person with the face of 
a baby and the authority of a commodore. She took 
on the spot the discreet, the exceptional young govern- 
ess into the confidence of her designs and, still more, 
of her doubts ; intimating that it was a policy she 
almost always promptly pursued. 

"To-morrow and Thursday are all right," she said 
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frankly to Charlotte on the second day, "but I'm 
not half-satisfied with Friday." 

"What improvement then do you suggest?" 

"Well, my strong point, you know, is tableaux 
vivanis." 

"Charming. And what is your favourite char- 
acter ? " 

" Boss ! " said Mrs. Guy with decision ; and it was 
very markedly under that ensign that she had, within 
a few hours, completely planned her campaign and 
recruited her troop. Every word she uttered was to 
the point, but none more so than, after a general sur- 
vey of their equipment, her final enquiry of Charlotte. 
She had been looking about, but half-appeased, at the 
muster of decoration and drapery. " We shall be dull. 
We shall want more colour. You 've nothing else ? " 

Charlotte had a thought. " No — I 've some things." 

"Then why don't you bring them ?" 

The girl weighed it. "Would you come to my 
room ? " 

"No," said Mrs. Guy — "bring them to-night to 
mine." 

So Charlotte, at the evening's end, after candle- 
sticks had flickered through brown old passages bed- 
ward, arrived at her friend's door with the burden of 
her aunt's relics. But she promptly expressed a fear. 
"Are they too garish ?" 

When she had poured them out on the sofa Mrs. 
Guy was but a minute, before the glass, in clapping on 
the diadem. " Av?fully jolly — we can do Ivanhoe ! " 

"But they're only glass and tin." 

"Larger than life they are, rather! — which is 
324 



PASTE 

exactly what's wanted for tableaux. Our jewels, for 
historic scenes, don't tell — the real thing falls short. 
Rowena must have rubies as big as eggs. Leave them 
with me," Mrs. Guy continued — "they'll inspire 
me. Good-night." 

The next morning she was in fact — yet very 
strangely — inspired. "Yes, /'// do Rowena. But 
I don't, my dear, understand." 

"Understand what?" 

Mrs. Guy gave a very lighted stare. "How you 
come to have such things." 

Poor Charlotte smiled. " By inheritance." 

" Family jewels ? " 

"They belonged to my aunt, who died some 
months ago. She was on the stage a few years in 
early life, and these are a part of her trappings." 

"She left them to you ?" 

"No; my cousin, her stepson, who naturally has 
no use for them, gave them to me for remembrance 
of her. She was a dear kind thing, always so nice to 
me, and I was fond of her." 

Mrs. Guy had listened with frank interest. "But 
it's he who must be a dear kind thing!" 

Charlotte wondered. "You think so ?" 

" Is he," her friend went on, " also * always so nice ' 
to you ? " 

The girl, at this, face to face there with the brilliant 
visitor in the deserted breakfast-room, took a deeper 
sounding. "What is it?" 

"Don't you know?" 

Something came over her. "The pearls — ? " But 
the question fainted on her lips. 

325 



PASTE 

"Doesn't he know?" 

Charlotte found herself flushing. "They're not 
paste ? " 

" Have n't you looked at them ? " 

She was conscious of two kinds of embarrassment. 
" Tou have ? " 

"Very carefully." 

"And they're real?" 

Mrs. Guy became slightly mystifying and returned 
for all answer : " Come again, when you 've done with 
the children, to my room." 

Our young woman found she had done with the 
children that morning so promptly as to reveal to 
them a new joy, and when she reappeared before 
Mrs. Guy this lady had already encircled a plump 
white throat with the only ornament, surely, in all 
the late Mrs. Prime's — the effaced Miss Bradshaw's 
— collection, in the least qualified to raise a question. 
If Charlotte had never yet once, before the glass, tied 
the string of pearls about her own neck, this was be- 
cause she had been capable of no such stoop to ap- 
proved "imitation"; but she had now only to look 
at Mrs. Guy to see that, so disposed, the ambiguous 
objects might have passed for frank originals. "What 
in the world have you done to them ? " 

"Only handled them, understood them, admired 
them and put them on. That's what pearls want; 
they want to be worn — it wakes them up. They 're 
alive, don't you see ? How have these been treated ? 
They must have been buried, ignored, despised. They 
were half-dead. Don't you know about pearls ? " Mrs. 
Guy threw off as she fondly fingered the necklace. 

326 



PASTE ' 

"How should I? Do you?" 

" Everything. These were simply asleep, and from 
the moment I really touched them — well," said their 
wearer lovingly, " it only took one's eye ! " 

"It took more than mine — though I did just won- 
der; and than Arthur's," Charlotte brooded. She 
found herself almost panting. " Then their value — ? " 

"Oh their value's excellent." 

The girl, for a deep contemplative moment, took 
another plunge into the wonder, the beauty and the 
mystery. "Are you sure?" 

Her companion wheeled round for impatience. 
" Sure ? For what kind of an idiot, my dear, do you 
take me ? " 

It was beyond Charlotte Prime to say. "For the 
same kind as Arthur — and as myself," she could 
only suggest. " But my cousin did n't know. He 
thinks they're worthless." 

" Because of the rest of the lot ? Then your cousin 's 
an ass. But what — if, as I understood you, he gave 
them to you — has he to do with it ? " 

"Why if he gave them to me as worthless and they 
turn out precious — ! " 

"You must give them back ? I don't see that — if 
he was such a noodle. He took the risk." 

Charlotte fed, in fancy, on the pearls, which de- 
cidedly were exquisite, but which at the present mo- 
ment somehow presented themselves much more as 
Mrs. Guy's than either as Arthur's or as her own. 
"Yes — he did take it; even after I had distinctly 
hinted to him that they looked to me different from 
the other pieces." 

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<n 



'Well then!" said Mrs. Guy with something more 
than triumph — with a positive odd relief. 

But it had the effect of making our young woman 
think with more intensity. "Ah you see he thought 
they could n't be different, because — so peculiarly — 
they should n't be." 

"Shouldn't? I don't understand." 

"Why how would she have got them?" — so 
Charlotte candidly put it. 

"She? Who?" There was a capacity in Mrs. 
Guy's tone for a sinking of persons — ! 

"Why the person I told you of: his stepmother, 
my uncle's wife — among whose poor old things, 
extraordinarily thrust away and out of sight, he hap- 
pened to find them." 

Mrs. Guy came a step nearer to the effaced Miss 
Bradshaw. "Do you mean she may have stolen 
them?" 

"No. But she had been an actress." 

"Oh well then," cried Mrs. Guy, "would n't that 
be just how ? " 

"Yes, except that she was n't at all a brilliant one, 
nor in receipt of large pay." The girl even threw off 
a nervous joke. "I 'm afraid she could n't have been 
our Rowena." 

Mrs. Guy took it up. "Was she very ugly?" 

"No. She may very well, when young, have looked 
rather nice." 

"Well then!" was Mrs. Guy's sharp comment and 
fresh triumph. 

"You mean it was a present? That's just what 
he so dislikes the idea of her having received — a 

328 



PASTE 

present from an admirer capable of going such 
lengths." 

"Because she would n't have taken it for nothing ? 
Speriamo — that she wasn't a brute. The 'length' 
her admirer went was the length of a whole row. Let 
us hope she was just a little kind!" 

"Well," Charlotte went on, "that she was 'kind' 
might seem to be shown by the fact that neither her 
husband, nor his son, nor I, his niece, knew or 
dreamed of her possessing anything so precious ; by 
her having kept the gift all the rest of her life beyond 
discovery — out of sight and protected from suspicion." 

"As if, you mean " — Mrs. Guy was quick — "she 
had been wedded to it and yet was ashamed of it ? 
Fancy," she laughed while she manipulated the rare 
beads, " being ashamed of these ! " 

"But you see she had married a clergyman." 

"Yes, she must have been 'rum.' But at any rate 
he had married her. What did he suppose ? " 

"Why that she had never been of the sort by whom 
such offerings are encouraged." 

"Ah my dear, the sort by whom they're not — !" 
But Mrs. Guy caught herself up. "And her stepson 
thought the same ? " 

" Overwhelmingly." 

"Was he then, if only her stepson — " 

"So fond of her as that comes to ? Yes; he had 
never known, consciously, his real mother, and, with- 
out children of her own, she was very patient and nice 
with him. And / liked her so," the girl pursued, 
"that at the end often years, in so strange a manner, 
to 'give her away' — " 

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PASTE 

"Is impossible to you? Then don't!" said Mrs. 
Guy with decision. 

"Ah but if they 're real I can't keep them ! " Char- 
lotte, with her eyes on them, moaned in her impa- 
tience. " It 's too difficult." 

"Where's the difficulty, if he has such sentiments 
that he 'd rather sacrifice the necklace than admit it, 
with the presumption it carries with it, to be genuine ? 
You 've only to be silent." 

"And keep it ? How can / ever wear it ?" 

"You'd have to hide it, like your aunt?" Mrs. 
Guy was amused. "You can easily sell it." 

Her companion walked round her for a look at the 
affair from behind. The clasp was certainly, doubt- 
less intentionally, misleading, but everything else was 
indeed lovely. "Well, I must think. Why did n't she 
sell them ? " Charlotte broke out in her trouble. 

Mrs. Guy had an instant answer. " Does n't that 
prove what they secretly recalled to her ? You 've only 
to be silent!" she ardently repeated. 

" I must think — I must think ! " 

Mrs. Guy stood with her hands attached but 
motionless. "Then you want them back?" 

As if with the dread of touching them Charlotte 
retreated to the door. "I'll tell you to-night." 

" But may I wear them ? " 

"Meanwhile?" 

"This evening — at dinner." 

It was the sharp selfish pressure of this that really, 
on the spot, determined the girl ; but for the moment, 
before closing the door on the question, she only said : 
"As you like!" 

33° 



PASTE 

They were busy much of the day with preparation 
and rehearsal, and at dinner that evening the con- 
course of guests was such that a place among them 
for Miss Prime failed to find itself marked. At the 
time the company rose she was therefore alone in 
the school-room, where, towards eleven o'clock, she 
received a visit from Mrs. Guy. This lady's white 
shoulders heaved, under the pearls, with an emotion 
that the very red lips which formed, as if for the full 
effect, the happiest opposition of colour, were not 
slow to translate. "My dear, you should have seen 
the sensation — they 've had a success ! " 

Charlotte, dumb a moment, took it all in. " It is 
as if they knew it — they're more and more alive. 
But so much the worse for both of us ! I can't," she 
brought out with an effort, "be silent." 

" You mean to return them ? " 

« If I don't I 'm a thief" 

Mrs. Guy gave her a long hard look: what was 
decidedly not of the baby in Mrs. Guy's face was a 
certain air of established habit in the eyes. Then, 
with a sharp little jerk of her head and a backward 
reach of her bare beautiful arms, she undid the clasp 
and, taking off the necklace, laid it on the table. "If 
you do you're a goose." 

"Well, of the two — !" said our young lady, 
gathering it up with a sigh. And as if to get it, for the 
pang it gave, out of sight as soon as possible, she shut 
it up, clicking the lock, in the drawer of her own little 
table; after which, when she turned again, her com- 
panion looked naked and plain without it. " But what 
will you say ? " it then occurred to her to demand. 

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«'i 



' Downstairs — to explain ? " Mrs. Guy was after 
all trying at least to keep her temper. "Oh I'll 
put on something else and say the clasp 's broken. 
And you won't of course name me to him," she 
added. 

"As having undeceived me? No — I'll say that, 
looking at the thing more carefully, it's my own 
private idea." 

"And does he know how little you really know?" 

"As an expert — surely. And he has always much 
the conceit of his own opinion." 

" Then he won't believe you — as he so hates to. 
He '11 stick to his judgement and maintain his gift, 
and we shall have the darlings back ! " With which 
reviving assurance Mrs. Guy kissed her young friend 
for good-night. 

She was not, however, to be gratified or justified by 
any prompt event, for, whether or no paste entered 
into the composition of the ornament in question, 
Charlotte shrank from the temerity of dispatching 
it to town by post. Mrs. Guy was thus disappointed 
of the hope of seeing the business settled — " by re- 
turn," she had seemed to expect — before the end of 
the revels. The revels, moreover, rising to a frantic 
pitch, pressed for all her attention, and it was at last 
only in the general confusion of leave-taking that she 
made, parenthetically, a dash at the person in the 
whole company with whom her contact had been 
most interesting. 

"Come, what will you take for them ?" 

"The pearls? Ah, you'll have to treat with my 
cousin." 

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PASTE 

Mrs. Guy, with quick intensity, lent herself. 
"Where then does he live ?" 

"In chambers in the Temple. You can find him." 

"But what's the use, if you do neither one thing 
nor the other ? " 

"Oh I shall do the 'other,' " Charlotte said : "I'm 
only waiting till I go up. You want them so awfully ? " 
She curiously, solemnly again, sounded her. 

"I'm dying for them. There's a special charm in 
them — I don't know what it is : they tell so their 
history." 

" But what do you know of that ? " 

"Just what they themselves say. It's all in them 
— and it comes out. They breathe a tenderness — 
they have the white glow of it. My dear," hissed 
Mrs. Guy in supreme confidence and as she buttoned 
her glove — "they 're things of love ! " 

"Oh!" our young woman vaguely exclaimed. 

"They're things of passion!" 

"Mercy ! " she gasped, turning short off. But these 
words remained, though indeed their help was scarce 
needed, Charlotte being in private face to face with 
a new light, as she by this time felt she must call it, 
on the dear dead kind colourless lady whose career 
had turned so sharp a corner in the middle. The 
pearls had quite taken their place as a revelation. 
She might have received them for nothing — admit 
that; but she could n't have kept them so long and 
so unprofitably hidden, could n't have enjoyed them 
only in secret, for nothing; and she had mixed them 
in her reliquary with false things in order to put curi- 
osity and detection off the scent. Over this strange 

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PASTE 

fact poor Charlotte interminably mused: it became 
more touching, more attaching for her than she could 
now confide to any ear. How bad or how happy — 
in the sophisticated sense of Mrs. Guy and the young 
man at the Temple — the effaced Miss Bradshaw 
must have been to have had to be so mute ! The little 
governess at Bleet put on the necklace now in secret 
sessions ; she wore it sometimes under her dress ; she 
came to feel verily a haunting passion for it. Yet in 
her penniless state she would have parted with it for 
money; she gave herself also to dreams of what in this 
direction it would do for her. The sophistry of her so 
often saying to herself that Arthur had after all defin- 
itely pronounced her welcome to any gain from his 
gift that might accrue — this trick remained innocent, 
as she perfectly knew it for what it was. Then there 
was always the possibility of his — as she could only 
picture it — rising to the occasion. Might n't he have 
a grand magnanimous moment ? — might n't he just 
say "Oh I could n't of course have aflForded to let 
you have it if I had known; but since you have got 
it, and have made out the truth by your own wit, I 
really can't screw myself down to the shabbiness of 
taking it back " ? 

She had, as it proved, to wait a long time — to wait 
till, at the end of several months, the great house of 
Bleet had, with due deliberation, for the season, 
transferred itself to town ; after which, however, she 
fairly snatched at her first freedom to knock, dressed 
in her best and armed with her disclosure, at the 
door of her doubting kinsman. It was still with 
doubt and not quite with the face she had hoped that 

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he listened to her story. He had turned pale, she 
thought, as she produced the necklace, and he ap- 
peared above all disagreeably affected. Well, per- 
haps there was reason, she more than ever remem- 
bered ; but what on earth was one, in close touch with 
the fact, to do ? She had laid the pearls on his table, 
where, without his having at first put so much as a 
finger to them, they met his hard cold stare. 

" I don't beheve in them," he simply said at last. 

"That's exactly then," she returned with some 
spirit, "what I wanted to hear!" 

She fancied that at this his colour changed ; it was 
indeed vivid to her afterwards — for she was to have 
a long recall of the scene — that she had made him 
quite angrily flush. "It's a beastly unpleasant im- 
putation, you know ! " — and he walked away from 
her as he had always walked at the vicarage. 

"It's none of my making, I 'm sure," said Charlotte 
Prime. "If you're afraid to believe they're real — " 

"Well ?" — and he turned, across the room, sharp 
round at her. 

"Why it's not my fault." 

He said nothing more, for a moment, on this; he 
only came back to the table. "They 're what I origin- 
ally said they were. They 're rotten paste." 

"Then I may keep them ?" 

"No. I want a better opinion." 

"Than your own ? " 

"Than your own." He dropped on the pearls 
another queer stare; then, after a moment, bringing 
himself to touch them, did exactly what she had her- 
self done in the presence of Mrs. Guy at Bleet — 

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gathered them together, marched off with them to a 
drawer, put them in and clicked the key. "You say 
I 'm afraid," he went on as he again met her; "but I 
shan't be afraid to take them to Bond Street." 

"And if the people say they're real — ?" 

He had a pause and then his strangest manner. 
"They won't say it! They shan't!" 

There was something in the way he brought it out 
that deprived poor Charlotte, as she was perfectly 
aware, of any manner at all. "Oh!" she simply 
sounded, as she had sounded for her last word to Mrs. 
Guy; and within a minute, without more conversa- 
tion, she had taken her departure. 

A fortnight later she received a communication 
from him, and toward the end of the season one of 
the entertainments in Eaton Square was graced by 
the presence of Mrs. Guy. Charlotte was not at din- 
ner, but she came down afterwards, and this guest, 
on seeing her, abandoned a very beautiful young man 
on purpose to cross and speak to her. The guest dis- 
played a lovely necklace and had apparently not lost 
her habit of overflowing with the pride of such orna- 
ments. 
j';. "Do you see?" She was in high joy. 

They were indeed splendid pearls — so far as poor 
Charlotte could feel that she knew, after what had 
come and gone, about such mysteries. The poor girl 
had a sickly smile. "They're almost as fine as 
Arthur's." 

"Almost ? Where, my dear, are your eyes ? They 
are 'Arthur's'!" After which, to meet the flood of 
crimson that accompanied her young friend's start: 

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PASTE 

"I tracked them — after your folly, and, by miracul- 
ous luck, recognised them in the Bond Street window 
to which he had disposed of them." 

"Disposed of them ? " Charlotte gasped. "He wrote 
me that I had insulted his mother and that the people 
had shown him he was right — had pronounced them 
utter paste." 

Mrs. Guy gave a stare. "Ah I told you he would 
n't bear it ! No. But I had, I assure you," she wound 
up, "to drive my bargain!" 

Charlotte scarce heard or saw; she was full of her 
private wrong. "He wrote me," she panted, "that he 
had smashed them." 

Mrs. Guy could only wonder and pity. "He's 
really morbid ! " But it was n't quite clear which of 
the pair she pitied; though the young person em- 
ployed in Eaton Square felt really morbid too after 
they had separated and she found herself full of 
thought. She even went the length of asking herself 
what sort of a bargain Mrs. Guy had driven and 
whether the marvel of the recognition in Bond Street 
had been a veracioi^ account of the matter. Had n't 
she perhaps in truth dealt with Arthur directly ? It 
came back to Charlotte almost luridly that she had 
had his address. 



EUROPE 



EUROPE 
I 

"Our feeling is, you know, that Becky should go." 
That earnest little remark comes back to me, even 
after long years, as the first note of something that 
began, for my observation, the day I went with my 
sister-in-law to take leave of her good friends. It 's 
a memory of the American time, which revives so at 
present — under some touch that does n't signify — 
that it rounds itself off as an anecdote. That walk to 
say good-bye was the beginning; and the end, so far as 
I enjoyed a view of it, was not till long after; yet 
even the end also appears to me now as of the old 
days. I went, in those days, on occasion, to see my 
sister-in-law, in whose affairs, on my brother's death, 
I had had to take a helpful hand. I continued to go 
indeed after these little matters were straightened out, 
for the pleasure, periodically, of the impression — 
the change to the almost pastoral sweetness of the 
good Boston suburb from the loud longitudinal 
New York. It was another world, with other man- 
ners, a different tone, a different taste; a savour no- 
where so mild, yet so distinct, as in the square white 
house — with the pair of elms, like gigantic wheat- 
sheaves, in front, the rustic orchard not far behind, 
the old-fashioned door-lights, the big blue-and-white 
jars in the porch, the straight bricked walk from the 

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high gate — that enshrined the extraordinary merit of 
Mrs. Rimmle and her three daughters. 

These ladies were so much of the place and the 
place so much of themselves that from the first of 
their being revealed to me I felt that nothing else at 
Brookbridge much mattered. They were what, for 
me, at any rate, Brookbridge had most to give: I 
mean in the way of what it was naturally strongest 
in, the thing we called in New York the New England 
expression, the air of Puritanism reclaimed and re- 
fined. The Rimmles had brought this down to a 
wonderful delicacy. They struck me even then — 
all four almost equally — as very ancient and very 
earnest, and I think theirs must have been the house 
in all the world in which "culture" first came to the 
aid of morning calls. The head of the family was 
the widow of a great public character — as public 
characters were understood at Brookbridge — whose 
speeches on anniversaries formed a part of the body 
of national eloquence spouted in the New England 
schools by little boys covetous of the most marked, 
though perhaps the easiest, distinction. He was 
reported to have been celebrated, and in such fine 
declamatory connexions that he seemed to gesticulate 
even from the tomb. He was understood to have 
made, in his wife's company, the tour of Europe at a 
date not immensely removed from that of the battle 
of Waterloo. What was the age then of the bland 
firm antique Mrs. Rimmle at the period of her being 
first revealed to me ? That 's a point I 'm not in a 
position to determine — I remember mainly that I 
was young enough to regard her as having reached the 

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limit. And yet the limit for Mrs. Rimmle must have 
been prodigiously extended ; the scale of its extension 
is in fact the very moral of this reminiscence. She was 
old, and her daughters were old, but I was destined to 
know them all as older. It was only by comparison 
and habit that — however much I recede — Rebecca, 
Maria and Jane were the "young ladies." > 
"■ I think it was felt that, though their mother'^' life, 
after thirty years of widowhood, had had a grand 
backward stretch, her blandness and firmness — and 
this in spite of her extreme physical frailty — would 
be proof against any surrender not overwhelmingly 
justified by time. It had appeared, years before, at 
a crisis of which the waves had not even yet quite 
subsided, a surrender not justified by anything name- 
able that she should go to Europe with her daughters 
and for her health. Her health was supposed to re- 
quire constant support; but when it had at that period 
tried conclusions with the idea of Europe it was not 
the idea of Europe that had been insidious enough 
to prevail. She had n't gone, and Becky, Maria and 
Jane had n't gone, and this was long ago. They still 
merely floated in the air of the visit achieved, with 
such introductions and such acclamations, in the early 
part of the century; they still, with fond glances at 
the sunny parlour- walls, only referred, in conversation, 
to divers pictorial and other reminders of it. The 
Miss Rimmles had quite been brought up on it, but 
Becky, as the most literary, had most mastered the 
subject. There were framed letters — tributes to 
their eminent father — suspended among the me- 
mentoes, and of two or three of these, the most foreign 

343 



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and complimentary, Becky had executed translations 
that figured beside the text. She knew already, 
through this and other illumination, so much about 
Europe that it was hard to believe for her in that 
limit of adventure which consisted only of her having 
beeh'twice to Philadelphia. The others had n't been 
to Philadelphia, but there was a legend that Jane had 
been to Saratoga. Becky was a short stout fair per- 
son with round serious eyes, a high forehead, the 
sweetest neatest enunciation, and a miniature of her 
father — " done in Rome " — worn as a breastpin. 
She had written the life, she had edited the speeches, 
of the original of this ornament, and now at last, be- 
yond the seas, she was really to tread in his footsteps. 
Fine old Mrs. Rimmle, in the sunny parlour and 
with a certain austerity of cap and chair — though 
with a gay new "front" that looked like rusty brown 
plush — had had so unusually good a winter that the 
question of her sparing two members of her family 
for an absence had been threshed as fine, I could 
feel, as even under that Puritan roof any case of con- 
science had ever been threshed. They were to make 
their dash while the coast, as it were, was clear, and 
each of the daughters had tried — heroically, angelic- 
ally and for the sake of each of her sisters — not to 
be one of the two. What I encountered that first time 
was an opportunity to concur with enthusiasm in the 
general idea that Becky's wonderful preparation would 
be wasted if she were the one to stay with their mother. 
Their talk of Becky's preparation (they had a sly 
old-maidish humour that was as mild as milk) might 
have been of some mixture, for application somewhere, 

344 



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that she kept in a precious bottle. It had been settled 
at all events that, armed with this concoction and 
borne aloft by their introductions, she and Jane were 
to start. They were wonderful on their introductions, 
which proceeded naturally from their mother and 
were addressed to the charming families that in vague 
generations had so admired vague Mr. Rimmle. 
Jane, I found at Brookbridge, had to be described, 
for want of other description, as the pretty one, but 
it would n't have served to identify her unless' you had 
seen the others. Her preparation was only this fig- 
ment of her prettiness — only, that is, unless one 
took into account something that, on the spot, I silently 
divined : the lifelong secret passionate ache of her little 
rebellious desire. They were all growing old in the 
yearning to go, but Jane's yearning was the sharpest. 
She struggled with it as people at Brookbridge mostly 
struggled with what they liked, but fate, by threaten- 
ing to prevent what she ^/jliked and what was there- 
fore duty — which was to stay at home instead of 
Maria — had bewildered her, I judged, not a little. 
It was she who, in the words I have quoted, men- 
tioned to me Becky's case and Becky's affinity as the 
clearest of all. Her mother moreover had on the gen- 
eral subject still more to say. 

"I positively desire, I really quite insist that they 
shall go," the old lady explained to us from her stiff 
chair. "We've talked about it so often, and they've 
had from me so clear an account — I've amused 
them again and again with it — of what 's to be seen 
and enjoyed. If they 've had hitherto too many duties 
to leave, the time seems to have come to recognise 

345 



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that there are also many duties to seek. Wherever 
we go we find them — I always remind the girls of 
that. There 's a duty that calls them to those wonder- 
ful countries, just as it called, at the right time, their 
father and myself — if it be only that of laying-up for 
the years to come the same store of remarkable im- 
pressions, the same wealth of knowledge and food for 
conversation as, since my return, I 've found myself 
so happy to possess." Mrs. Rimmle spoke of her 
return as of something of the year before last, but the 
future of her daughters was somehow, by a different 
law, to be on the scale of great vistas, of endless after- 
tastes. I think that, without my being quite ready to 
say it, even this first impression of her was somewhat 
upsetting; there was a large placid perversity, a grim 
secrecy of intention, in her estimate of the ages. 

"Well, I'm so glad you don't delay it longer," I 
said to Miss Becky before we withdrew. "And 
whoever should go," I continued in the spirit of the 
sympathy with which the good sisters had already 
inspired me, "I quite feel, with your family, you 
know, that you should. But of course I hold that 
every one should." I suppose I wished to attenuate 
my solemnity; there was, however, something in it I 
could n't help. It must have been a faint foreknow- 
ledge. 

"Have you been a great deal yourself? " Miss Jane, 
I remembered, enquired. 

"Not so much but that I hope to go a good deal 
more. So perhaps we shall meet," I encouragingly 
suggested. 

I recall something — something in the nature of 
346 



EUROPE 

susceptibility to encouragement — that this brought 
into the more expressive brown eyes to which Miss 
Jane mainly owed it that she was the pretty one. 
"Where, do you think?" 

I tried to think. "Well, on the Italian lakes — 
Como, Bellaggio, Lugano." I liked to say the names 
to them. 

" ' Sublime, but neither bleak nor bare — nor misty 
are the mountains there ! ' " Miss Jane softly breathed, 
while her sister looked at her as if her acquaintance 
with the poetry of the subject made her the most in- 
teresting feature of the scene she evoked. 

But Miss Becky presently turned to me. " Do you 
know everything — ? " 

"Everything?" 

"In Europe." 

"Oh yes," I laughed, "and one or two things even 
in America." 

The sisters seemed to me furtively to look at each 
other. "Well, you '11 have to be quick — to meet us" 
Miss Jane resumed. 

" But surely when you 're once there you 'U stay on." 

" Stay on ? " — they murmured it simultaneously 
and with the oddest vibration of dread as well as of 
desire. It was as if they had been in presence of a 
danger and yet wished me, who "knew everything," to 
torment them with still more of it. 

Well, I did my best. "I mean it will never do to 
cut it short." 

"No, that's just what I keep saying," said brilliant 
Jane. "It would be better in that case not to go." 

"Oh don't talk about not going — at this time!" 

347 



EUROPE 

It was none of my business, but I felt shocked and 
impatient. 

"No, not at this time ! " broke in Miss Maria, who, 
very red in the face, had joined us. Poor Miss Maria 
was known as the flushed one; but she was not 
flushed — she only had an unfortunate surface. The 
third day after this was to see them embark. 

Miss Becky, however, desired as little as any one 
to be in any way extravagant. " It 's only the thought 
of our mother," she explained. 

I looked a moment at the old lady, with whom 
my sister-in-law was engaged. "Well — your mo- 
ther's magnificent." 

"Is n't she magnificent ? " — they eagerly took it up. 

She was — I could reiterate it with sincerity, 
though I perhaps mentally drew the line when Miss 
Maria again risked, as a fresh ejaculation : " I think 
she's better than Europe!" 

"Maria!" they both, at this, exclaimed with a 
strange emphasis : it was as if they feared she had 
suddenly turned cynical over the deep domestic 
drama of their casting of lots. The innocent laugh 
with which she answered them gave the measure of 
her cynicism. 

We separated at last, and my eyes met Mrs. 
Rimmle's as I held for an instant her aged hand. It 
was doubtless only my fancy that her calm cold look 
quietly accused me of something. Of what could it 
accuse me ? Only, I thought, of thinking. 



II 

I LEFT Brookbridge the next day, and for some time 
after that had no occasion to hear from my kins- 
woman ; but when she finally wrote there was a pass- 
age in her letter that affected me more than all the 
rest. "Do you know the poor Rimmles never, after 
all, 'went ' ? The old lady, at the eleventh hour, broke 
down ; everything broke down, and all of them on top 
of it, so that the dear things are with us still. Mrs. 
Rimmie, the night after our call, had, in the most un- 
expected manner, a turn for the worse — something 
in the nature (though they 're rather mysterious about 
it) of a seizure ; Becky and Jane felt it — dear de- 
voted stupid angels that they are — heartless to leave 
her at such a moment, and Europe 's indefinitely post- 
poned. However, they think they 're still going — or 
think they think it — when she's better. They also 
think — or think they think — that she will be bet- 
ter. I certainly pray she may." So did I — quite 
fervently. I was conscious of a real pang — I did n't 
know how much they had made me care. 

Late that winter my sister-in-law spent a week in 
New York; when almost my first enquiry on meeting 
her was about the health of Mrs. Rimmie. 

"Oh she's rather bad — she really is, you know. 
It's not surprising that at her age she should be in- 
firm." 

"Then what the deuce is her age ?" 

349 



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" I can't tell you to a year — but she 's immensely 
old." 

"That of course I saw," I replied — "unless you 
literally mean so old that the records have been lost." 

My sister-in-law thought. "Well, I believe she 
was n't positively young when she married. She lost 
three or four children before these women were born." 

We surveyed together a little, on this, the "dark 
backward." "And they were born, I gather, after the 
famous tour ? Well then, as the famous tour was in 
a manner to celebrate — was n't it ? — the restoration 
of the Bourbons — " I considered, I gasped. "My 
dear child, what on earth do you make her out ? " 

My relative, with her Brookbridge habit, trans- 
ferred her share of the question to the moral plane — 
turned it forth to wander, by implication at least, in the 
sandy desert of responsibility. "Well, you know, we 
all immensely admire her." 

"You can't admire her more than I do. She's 
awful." 

My converser looked at me with a certain fear. 
"She's r^a//;; ill." 

"Too ill to get better?" 

"Oh no — we hope not. Because then they'll be 
able to go." 

"And will they go if she should ?" 

"Oh the moment they should be quite satisfied. 
I mean really" she added. 

I 'm afraid I laughed at her — the Brookbridge 
"really" was a thing so by itself. "But if she should 
n't get better ? " I went on. 

"Oh don't speak of it! They want so to go." 
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EUROPE 

"It's a pity they're so infernally good," I mused. 
"No — don't say that. It's what keeps them up." 
"Yes, but is n't it what keeps her up too ?" 
My visitor looked grave. "Would you like them 
to kill her?" 

I don't know that I was then prepared to say I 
should — though I believe I came very near it. But 
later on I burst all bounds, for the subject grew and 
grew. I went again before the good sisters ever did 
— I mean I went to Europe. I think I went twice, 
with a brief interval, before my fate again brought 
round for me a couple of days at Brookbridge. I had 
been there repeatedly, in the previous time, without 
making the acquaintance of the Rimmles; but now 
that I had had the revelation I could n't have it too 
much, and the first request I preferred was to be taken 
again to see them. I remember well indeed the scruple 
I felt — the real delicacy — about betraying that / 
had, in the pride of my power, since our other meet- 
ing, stood, as their phrase went, among romantic 
scenes ; but they were themselves the first to speak of 
it, and what moreover came home to me was that 
the coming and going of their friends in general — 
Brookbridge itself having even at that period one foot 
in Europe — was such as to place constantly before 
them the pleasure that was only postponed. They 
were thrown back after all on what the situation, 
under a final analysis, had most to give — the sense 
that, as every one kindly said to them and they kindly 
said to every one, Europe would keep. Every one felt 
for them so deeply that their own kindness in alleviat- 
ing every one's feeling was really what came out 

351 



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most. Mrs. Rimmle was still in her stiflF chair and in 
the sunny parlour, but if she made no scruple of in- 
troducing the Italian lakes my heart sank to observe 
that she dealt with them, as a topic, not in the least in 
the leave-taking manner in which FalstafF babbled of 
green fields. 

I 'm not sure that after this my pretexts for a day 
or two with my sister-in-law were n't apt to be a mere 
cover for another glimpse of these particulars : I at 
any rate never went to Brookbridge without an irre- 
pressible eagerness for our customary call. A long 
time seems to me thus to have passed, with glimpses 
and lapses, considerable impatience and still more 
pity. Our visits indeed grew shorter, for, as my com- 
panion said, they were more and more of a strain. It 
finally struck me that the good sisters even shrank 
from me a little as from one who penetrated their 
consciousness in spite of himself. It was as if they 
knew where I thought they ought to be, and were 
moved to deprecate at last, by a systematic silence 
on the subject of that hemisphere, the criminality I 
fain would fix on them. They were full instead — as 
with the instinct of throwing dust in my eyes — of 
little pathetic hypocrisies about Brookbridge interests 
and delights. I dare say that as time went on my 
deeper sense of their situation came practically to rest 
on my companion's report of it. I certainly think I 
recollect every word we ever exchanged about them, 
even if I 've lost the thread of the special occasions. 
The impression they made on me after each interval 
always broke out with extravagance as I walked 
away with her. 

352 



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" She may be as old as she likes — I don't care. 
It's the fearful age the 'girls' are reaching that con- 
stitutes the scandal. One should n't pry into such 
matters, I know; but the years and the chances are 
really going. They 're all growing old together — it 
will presently be too late; and their mother mean- 
while perches over them like a vulture — what shall I 
call it ? — calculating. Is she waiting for them suc- 
cessively to drop off ? She '11 survive them each and 
all. There 's something too remorseless in it." 

"Yes, but what do you want her to do? If the 
poor thing can't die she can't. Do you want her to 
take poison or to open a blood-vessel ? I dare say 
she'd prefer to go." 

"I beg your pardon," I must have replied; "you 
dare n't say anything of the sort. If she 'd prefer to 
go she would go. She'd feel the propriety, the de- 
cency, the necessity of going. She just prefers not to 
go. She prefers to stay and keep up the tension, and 
her caUing them 'girls' and talking of the good time 
they'll still have is the mere conscious mischief of a 
subtle old witch. They won't have any time — there 
is n't any time to have ! I mean there 's, on her own 
part, no real loss of measure or of perspective in it. 
She knows she 's a hundred and ten, and she takes a 
cruel pride in it." 

My sister-in-law differed with me about this; she 
held that the old woman's attitude was an honest 
one and that her magnificent vitality, so great in 
spite of her infirmities, made it inevitable she should 
attribute youth to persons who had come into the 
world so much later. "Then suppose she should die ? " 

353 



EUROPE 

— so my fellow student of the case always put it to 
me. 

"Do you mean while her daughters are away? 
There 's not the least fear of that — not even if at the 
very moment of their departure she should be in 
extremis. They'd find her all right on their return." 

" But think how they 'd feel not to have been with 
her!" 

"That's only, I repeat, on the unsound assumption. 
If they 'd only go to-morrow — literally make a good 
rush for it — they'll be with her when they come 
back. That will give them plenty of time." I'm 
afraid I even heartlessly added that if she should, 
against every probability, pass away in their absence 
they would n't have to come back at all — which 
would be just the compensation proper to their long 
privation. And then Maria would come out to join 
the two others, and they would be — though but 
for the too scanty remnant of their career — as merry 
as the day is long. 

I remained ready, somehow, pending the fulfilment 
of that vision, to sacrifice Maria; it was only over 
the urgency of the case for the others respectively 
that I found myself balancing. Sometimes it was 
for Becky I thought the tragedy deepest — some- 
times, and in quite a different manner, I thought it 
most dire for Jane. It was Jane after all who had 
most sense of life. I seemed in fact dimly to descry in 
Jane a sense — as yet undescried by herself or by 
any one — of all sorts of queer things. Why did n't 
she go ? I used desperately to ask ; why did n't she 
make a bold personal dash for it, strike up a partner- 

354 



EUROPE 

ship with some one or other of the travelling spinsters 
in whom Brookbridge more and more abounded ? 
Well, there came a flash for me at a particular point 
of the grey middle desert : my correspondent was able 
to let me know that poor Jane at last had sailed. She 
had gone of a sudden — I liked my sister-in-law's 
view of suddenness — with the kind Hathaways, 
who had made an irresistible grab at her and lifted 
her off her feet. They were going for the summer and 
for Mr. Hathaway's health, so that the opportunity 
was perfect and it was impossible not to be glad that 
something very like physical force had finally pre- 
vailed. This was the general feeling at Brookbridge, 
and I might imagine what Brookbridge had been 
brought to from the fact that, at the very moment 
she was hustled off, the doctor, called to her mother 
at the peep of dawn, had considered that he at least 
must stay. There had been real alarm — greater than 
ever before; it actually did seem as if this time the end 
had come. But it was Becky, strange to say, who, 
though fully recognising the nature of the crisis, had 
kept the situation in hand and insisted upon action. 
This, I remember, brought back to me a discomfort 
with which I had been familiar from the first. One 
of the two had sailed, and I was sorry it was n't the 
other. But if it had been the other I should have been 
equally sorry. 

I saw with my eyes that very autumn what a fool 
Jane would have been if she had again backed out. 
Her mother had of course survived the peril of which 
I had heard, profiting by it indeed as she had profited 
by every other; she was sufficiently better again to 

355 



EUROPE 

have come downstairs. It was there that, as usual, 
I found her, but with a difference of effect produced 
somehow by the absence of one of the girls. It was 
as if, for the others, though they had n't gone to 
Europe, Europe had come to them : Jane's letters had 
been so frequent and so beyond even what could have 
been hoped. It was the first time, however, that I 
perceived on the old woman's part a certain failure of 
lucidity. Jane's flight was clearly the great fact with 
her, but she spoke of it as if the fruit had now been 
plucked and the parenthesis closed. I don't know 
what sinking sense of still further physical duration I 
gathered, as a menace, from this first hint of her con- 
fusion of mind. 

" My daughter has been ; my daughter has been — " 
She kept saying it, but did n't say where ; that seemed 
unnecessary, and she only repeated the words to her 
visitors with a face that was all puckers and yet now, 
save in so far as it expressed an ineffaceable com- 
placency, all blankness. I think she rather wanted us 
to know how little she had stood in the way. It added 
to something — I scarce knew what — that I found 
myself desiring to extract privately from Becky. As 
our visit was to be of the shortest my opportunity — 
for one of the young ladies always came to the door 
with us — was at hand. Mrs. Rimmle, as we took 
leave, again sounded her phrase, but she added this 
time : " I 'm so glad she 's going to have always — " 

I knew so well what she meant that, as she again 
dropped, looking at me queerly and becoming mo- 
mentarily dim, I could help her out. " Going to have 
what you have?" 

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EUROPE 

"Yes, yes — my privilege. Wonderful experience," 
she mumbled. She bowed to me a little as if I would 
understand. "She has things to tell." 

I turned, slightly at a loss, to Becky. "She has then 
already arrived ? " 

Becky was at that moment looking a little strangely 
at her mother, who answered my question. "She 
reached New York this morning — she comes on 
to-day." 

"Oh then — !" But I let the matter pass as I met 
Becky's eye — I saw there was a hitch somewhere. 
It was not she but Maria who came out with us ; on 
which I cleared up the question of their sister's re- 
appearance. 

"Oh no, not to-night," Maria smiled; "that's only 
the way mother puts it. We shall see her about the 
end of November — the Hathaways are so indulgent. 
They kindly extend their tour." 

" For her sake ? How sweet of them ! " my sister-in- 
law exclaimed. 

I can see our friend's plain mild old face take on a 
deeper mildness, even though a higher colour, in the 
light of the open door. " Yes, it 's for Jane they pro- 
long it. And do you know what they write ? " She 
gave us time, but it was too great a responsibility to 
guess. "Why that it has brought her out." 

"Oh, I knew it would !" my companion sympathet- 
ically sighed. 

Maria put it more strongly still. "They say we 
would n't know her." 

This sounded a little awful, but it was after all what 
I had expected. 



Ill 



My correspondent in Brookbridge came to me that 
Christmas, with my niece, to spend a week; and the 
arrangement had of course been prefaced by an 
exchange of letters, the first of which from my sister- 
in-law scarce took space for acceptance of my invita- 
tion before going on to say: "The Hathaways are 
back — but without Miss Jane ! " She presented in a 
few words the situation thus created at Brookbridge, 
but was not yet, I gathered, fully in possession of the 
other one — the situation created in " Europe " by 
the presence there of that lady. The two together, 
however that might be, demanded, I quickly felt, all 
my attention, and perhaps my impatience to receive 
my relative was a little sharpened by my desire for the 
whole story. I had it at last, by the Christmas fire, 
and I may say without reserve that it gave me all I 
could have hoped for. I listened eagerly, after which 
I produced the comment: "Then she simply re- 
fused—" 

"To budge from Florence? Simply. She had it 
out there with the poor Hathaways, who felt respons- 
ible for her safety, pledged to restore her to her 
mother's, to her sisters' hands, and showed herself 
in a light, they mention under their breath, that made 
their dear old hair stand on end. Do you know what, 
when they first got back, they said of her — at least 
it was his phrase — to two or three people ? " 

, 358 



EUROPE 

I thought a moment. "That she had 'tasted 
blood'?" 

My visitor fairly admired me. " How clever of you 
to guess ! It 's exactly vrhat he did say. She appeared 

— she continues to appear, it seems — in a new 
character." 

I wondered a little. " But that 's exactly — don't 
you remember ? — what Miss Maria reported to us 
from them; that we 'would n't know her.'" 

My sister-in-law perfectly remembered. "Oh yes 

— she broke out from the first. But when they left 
her she was worse." 

"Worse?" 

"Well, different — different from anything she ever 
had been or — for that matter — had had a chance 
to be." My reporter hung fire a moment, but pre- 
sently faced me. " Rather strange and free and ob- 
streperous." 

"Obstreperous?" I wondered again. 

" Peculiarly so, I inferred, on the question of not 
coming away. She would n't hear of it and, when they 
spoke of her mother, said she had given her mother 
up. She had thought she should like Europe, but 
did n't know she should like it so much. They had 
been fools to bring her if they expected to take her 
away. She was going to see what she could — she 
had n't yet seen half The end of it at any rate was 
that they had to leave her alone." 

I seemed to see it all — to see even the scared 
Hathaways. " So she is alone ? " 

"She told them, poor thing, it appears, and in a 
tone they'll never forget, that she was in any case 

359 



EUROPE 

quite old enough to be. She cried — she quite went 
on — over not having come sooner. That 's why the 
only way for her," my companion mused, "is, I sup- 
pose, to stay. They wanted to put her with some 
people or other — to find some American family. But 
she says she's on her own feet." 

"And she's still in Florence?" 

"No — I believe she was to travel. She's bent on 
the East." 

I burst out laughing. "Magnificent Jane! It's 
most interesting. Only I feel that I distinctly should 
'know' her. To my sense, always, I must tell you, 
she had it in her." 

My relative was silent a little. "So it now appears 
Becky always felt." 

"And yet pushed her off? Magnificent Becky!" 

My companion met my eyes a moment. "You 
don't know the queerest part. I mean the way it has 
most brought her out." 

I turned it over ; I felt I should like to know — to 
that degree indeed that, oddly enough, I jocosely 
disguised my eagerness. "You don't mean she has 
taken to drink ? " 

My visitor had a dignity — and yet had to have a 
freedom. "She has taken to flirting." 

I expressed disappointment. "Oh she took to that 
long ago. Yes," I declared at my kinswoman's stare, 
"she positively flirted — with me !" 

The stare perhaps sharpened. "Then you flirted 
with her?" 

" How else could I have been as sure as I wanted 
to be ? But has she means ? " 

360 



EUROPE 

" Means to flirt ? " — my friend looked an instant as 
if she spoke literally. "I don't understand about the 
means — though of course they have something. But 
I have my impression," she went on. " I think that 
Becky — " It seemed almost too grave to say. 

But / had no doubts. "That Becky's backing 
her?" 

She brought it out. "Financing her." 

"Stupendous Becky! So that morally then — " 

"Becky's quite in sympathy. But isn't it too 
odd ? " my sister-in-law asked. 

"Not in the least. Did n't we know, as regards 
Jane, that Europe was to bring her out .'' Well, it has 
also brought out Rebecca." 

" It has indeed ! " my companion indulgently sighed. 
"So what would it do if she were there ?" 

"I should Hke immensely to see. And we shall 
see." 

" Do you believe then she '11 still go ? " 

"Certainly. She must." 

But my friend shook it off. "She won't." 

"She shall!" I retorted with a laugh. But the 
next moment I said : "And what does the old woman 
say?" 

"To Jane's behaviour? Not a word — never 
speaks of it. She talks now much less than she 
used — only seems to wait. But it's my belief she 
thinks." 

"And — do you mean — knows ? " 

"Yes, knows she's abandoned. In her silence 
there she takes it in." 

"It's her way of making Jane pay?" At this, 
361 



EUROPE 

somehow, I felt more serious. "Oh dear, dear — 
she'll disinherit her!" 

When in the following June I went on to return 
my sister-in-law's visit the first object that met my 
eyes in her little white parlour was a figure that, to 
my stupefaction, presented itself for the moment as 
that of Mrs. Rimmle. I had gone to my room after 
arriving and had come down when dressed; the ap- 
parition I speak of had arisen in the interval. Its 
ambiguous character lasted, however, but a second 
or two ^- I had taken Becky for her mother because I 
knew no one but her mother of that extreme age. 
Becky's age was quite startling; it had made a great 
stride, though, strangely enough, irrecoverably seated 
as she now was in it, she had a wizened brightness 
that I had scarcely yet seen in her. I remember in- 
dulging on this occasion in two silent observations: 
one on the article of my not having hitherto been 
conscious of her full resemblance to the old lady, and 
the other to the effect that, as I had said to my sister- 
in-law at Christmas, "Europe," even as reaching her 
only through Jane's sensibilities, had really at last 
brought her out. She was in fact "out" in a manner 
of which this encounter offered to my eyes a unique 
example : it was the single hour, often as I had been 
at Brookbridge, of my meeting her elsewhere than in 
her mother's drawing-room. I surmise that, besides 
being adjusted to her more marked time of life, the 
garments she wore abroad, and in particular her little 
plain bonnet, presented points of resemblance to the 
close sable sheath and the quaint old headgear that, 
in the white house behind the elms, I had from far 

362 



EUROPE 

back associated with the eternal image in the stiff 
chair. Of course I immediately spoke of Jane, show- 
ing an interest and asking for news; on which she 
answered me with a smile, but not at all as I had 
expected. 

" Those are not really the things you want to know 
— where she is, whom she 's with, how she manages 
and where she's going next — oh no!" And the 
admirable woman gave a laugh that was somehow 
both light and sad — sad, in particular, with a strange 
long weariness. "What you do want to know is when 
she's coming back." 

I shook my head very kindly, but out of a wealth 
of experience that, I flattered myself, was equal to 
Miss Becky's. "I do know it. Never." 

Miss Becky exchanged with me at this a long deep 
look. "Never." 

We had, in silence, a little luminous talk about it, 
at the end of which she seemed to have told me the 
most interesting things. "And how's your mother ?" 
I then enquired. 

She hesitated, but finally spoke with the same 
serenity. "My mother's all right. You see she 's not 
alive." 

"Oh Becky!" my sister-in-law pleadingly inter- 
jected. 

But Becky only addressed herself to me. "Come 
and see if she is. / think she isn't — but Maria I 
perhaps is n't so clear. Come at all events and judge 
and tell me." 

It was a new note, and I was a little bewildered. 
"Ah but I'm not a doctor!" 

363 



EUROPE 

"No, thank God — you 're not. That's why I ask 
you." And now she said good-bye. 

I kept her hand a moment. "You're more alive 
than ever ! " 

" I 'm very tired." She took it with the same smile, 
but for Becky it was much to say. 



IV 



"Not alive," the next day, was certainly what Mrs. 
Rimmle looked when, arriving in pursuit of my 
promise, I found her, with Miss Maria, in her usual 
place. Though wasted and shrunken she still occu- 
pied her high-backed chair with a visible theory of 
erectness, and her intensely aged- face — combined 
with something dauntless that belonged to her very 
presence and that was effective even in this extremity 
— might have been that of some immemorial sover- 
eign, of indistinguishable sex, brought forth to be 
shown to the people in disproof of the rumour of ex- 
rinction. Mummified and open-eyed she looked at me, 
but I had no impression that she made me out. I had 
come this time without my sister-in-law, who had 
frankly pleaded to me — which also, for a daughter 
of Brookbridge, was saying much — that the house 
had grown too painful. Poor Miss Maria excused 
Miss Becky on the score of her not being well — and 
that, it struck me, was saying most of all. The absence 
of the others gave the occasion a different note ; but 
I talked with Miss Maria for five minutes and recog- 
nised that — save for her saying, of her own move- 
ment, anything about Jane — she now spoke as if 
her mother had lost hearing or sense, in fact both, 
alluding freely and distinctly, though indeed favour- 
ably, to her condition. "She has expected your visit 
and much enjoys it/' my entertainer said, while the 

3^5 



EUROPE 

old woman, soundless and motionless, simply fixed 
me without expression. Of course there was little to 
keep me ; but I became aware as I rose to go that there 
was more than I had supposed. 

On my approaching her to take leave Mrs. Rimmle 
gave signs of consciousness. "Have you heard about 
Jane?" 

I hesitated, feeling a responsibility, and appealed 
for direction to Maria's face. But Maria's face was 
troubled, was turned altogether to her mother's. 
"About her life in Europe ?" I then rather helplessly 
asked. 

The old lady fronted me on this in a manner 
that made me feel silly. " Her life ? " — and her voice, 
with this second effort, came out stronger. "Her 
death, if you please." 

" Her death ? " I echoed, before I could stop my- 
self, with the accent of deprecation. 

Miss Maria uttered a vague sound of pain, and I 
felt her turn away, but the marvel of her mother's 
little unquenched spark still held me. " Jane 's dead. 
We've heard," said Mrs. Rimmle. "We've heard 
from — where is it we 've heard from ? " She had 
quite revived — she appealed to her daughter. 

The poor old girl, crimson, rallied to her duty. 
"From Europe." 

Mrs. Rimmle made at us both a little grim inclina- 
tion of the head. "From Europe." I responded, in 
silence, by a deflexion from every rigour, and, still 
holding me, she went on: "And now Rebecca's 
going." 

She had gathered by this time such emphasis to 
366 



EUROPE 

say it that again, before I could help myself, I vi- 
brated in reply. "To Europe — now ? " It was as if 
for an instant she had made me believe it. 

She only stared at me, however, from her wizened 
mask; then her eyes followed my companion. "Has 
she gone ? " 

"Not yet, mother." Maria tried to treat it as a 
joke, but her smile was embarrassed and dim. 

" Then where is she ? " 

"She's lying down." 

The old woman kept up her hard queer gaze, but 
directing it after a minute to me. "She's going." 

"Oh some day!" I foolishly laughed ; and on this 
I got to the door, where I separated from my younger 
hostess, who came no further. 

Only, as I held the door open, she said to me 
under cover of it and very quietly : " It 's poor mo- 
ther's idea." 

I saw — it was her idea. Mine was — for some time 
after this, even after I had returned to New York and 
to my usual occupations — that I should never again 
see Becky. I had seen her for the last time, I be- 
lieved, under my sister-in-law's roof, and in the au- 
tumn it was given to me to hear from that fellow ad- 
mirer that she had succumbed at last to the situation. 
The day of the call I have just described had been 
a date in the process of her slow shrinkage — it was 
literally the first time she had, as they said at Brook- 
bridge, given up. She had been ill for years, but the 
other state of health in the contemplation of which 
she had spent so much of her life had left her till 
too late no margin for heeding it. The power of at- 

367 



EUROPE 

tention came at last simply in the form of the discov- 
ery that it was too late ; on which, naturally, she had 
given up more and more. I had heard indeed, for 
weeks before, by letter, how Brookbridge had watched 
her do so ; in consequence of which the end found me 
in a manner prepared. Yet in spite of my preparation 
there remained with me a soreness, and when I was 
next — it was some six months later — on the scene 
of her martyrdom I fear I replied with an almost 
rabid negative to the question put to me in due 
course by my kinswoman. "Call on them? Never 
again ! " 

I went none the less the very next day. Every- 
thing was the same in the sunny parlour — every- 
thing that most mattered, I mean : the centenarian 
mummy in the high chair and the tributes, in the 
little frames on the walls, to the celebrity of its late 
husband. Only Maria Rimmle was different: if 
Becky, on my last seeing her, had looked as old as her 
mother, Maria — save that she moved about — 
looked older. I remember she moved about, but I 
scarce remember what she said ; and indeed what was 
there to say ? When I risked a question, however, 
she found a reply. 

"But now at least — ?" I tried to put it to her 
suggestively. 

At first she was vague. "'Now' ?" 

"Won't Miss Jane come back?" 

Oh the headshake she gave me! "Never." It 
positively pictured to me, for the instant, a well- 
preserved woman, a rich ripe seconde jeunesse by the 
Arno. 

368 



EUROPE 

"Then that's only to make more sure of your 
finally joining her." 

Maria Rimmle repeated her headshake. "Never." 

We stood so a moment bleakly face to face; I 
could think of no attenuation that would be par- 
ticularly happy. But while I tried I heard a hoarse 
gasp that fortunately relieved me — a signal strange 
and at first formless from the occupant of the high- 
backed chair. " Mother wants to speak to you," Maria 
then said. 

So it appeared from the drop of the old woman's 
jaw, the expression of her mouth opened as if for the 
emission of sound. It was somehow difficult to me 
to seem to sympathise without hypocrisy, but, so far 
as a step nearer could do that, I invited communi- 
cation. "Have you heard where Becky's gone ?" the 
wonderful witch's white lips then extraordinarily 
asked. 

It drew from Maria, as on my previous visit, an 
uncontrollable groan, and this in turn made me take 
time to consider. As I considered, however, I had 
an inspiration. "To Europe?" 

I must have adorned it with a strange grimace, but 
my inspiration had been right. "To Europe," said 
Mrs. Rimmle. 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

"It's astonishing what you take for granted !" Lady 
Champer had exclaimed to her young friend at an 
early stage; and this might have served as a sign 
that even then the little plot had begun to thicken. 
The reflexion was uttered at the time the outlook of 
the charming American girl in whom she found her- 
self so interested was still much in the rough. They 
had often met, with pleasure to each, during a winter 
spent in Rome; and Lily had come to her in London 
toward the end of May with further news of a situ- 
ation the dawn of which, in March and April, by the 
Tiber, the Arno and the Seine, had considerably 
engaged her attention. The Prince had followed 
Miss Gunton to Florence and then with almost 
equal promptitude to Paris, where it was both clear 
and comical for Lady Champer that the rigour of 
his uncertainty as to parental commands and remit- 
tances now detained him. This shrewd woman 
promised herself not a little amusement from her 
view of the possibilities of the case. Lily was, on the 
whole showing, a wonder ; therefore the drama would 
lose nothing from her character, her temper, her 
tone. She was waiting — this was the truth she had 
imparted to her clever protectress — to see if her 
Roman captive would find himself drawn to London. 
Should he really turn up there she would the next 
thing start for America, putting him to the test of 

373 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

that wider range and declining to place her confidence 
till he should have arrived in New York at her heels. 
If he remained in Paris or returned to Rome she 
would stay in London and, as she phrased it, have 
a good time by herself. Did he expect her to go back 
to Paris for him ? Why not in that case just as well 
go back to Rome at once ? The first thing for her, 
Lily intimated to her London adviser, was to show 
what, in her position, she expected. 

Her position meanwhile was one that Lady Cham- 
per, try as she would, had as yet succeeded neither 
in understanding nor in resigning herself not to under- 
stand. It was that of being extraordinarily pretty, 
amazingly free and perplexingly good, and of pre- 
senting these advantages in a positively golden light. 
How was one to estimate a girl whose nearest ap- 
proach to a drawback — that is to an encumbrance 
— appeared to be a grandfather carrying on a busi- 
ness in an American city her ladyship had never 
otherwise heard of, with whom communication was 
all by cable and on the subject of "drawing"? 
Expression was on the old man's part moreover as 
concise as it was expensive, consisting as it inveterately 
did of but the single word "Draw." Lily drew, on 
every occasion in life, and it at least could n't be 
said of the pair — when the "family idea," as em- 
bodied in America, was under criticism — that they 
were not in touch. Mr. Gunton had further given 
her Mrs. Brine to come out with her, and, thanks to 
this provision and the perpetual pecuniary, he plainly 
figured — to Lily's own mind — as solicitous to the 
point of anxiety. Mrs. Brine's scheme of relations 

37+ 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

seemed in truth to be simpler still. There was a 
transatlantic "Mr. Brine," of whom she often spoke 
— and never in any other way ; but she wrote for news- 
papers ; she prowled in catacombs, visiting more than 
once even those of Paris; she haunted hotels; she 
picked up compatriots; she spoke above all a lan- 
guage that often baffled comprehension. She mat- 
tered, however, but little ; she was mainly so occupied 
in having what Lily had likewise independently 
glanced at — a good time by herself. It was difficult 
enough indeed to Lady Champer to see the wonder- 
ful girl reduced to that, yet she was a little person 
who kept one somehow in presence of the incalcul- 
able. Old measures and familiar rules were of no 
use at all with her — she had so broken the moulds 
and so mixed the marks. What was confounding was 
her disparities — the juxtaposition in her of beautiful 
sun-flushed heights and deep dark holes. She had 
none of the things that the other things implied. She 
dangled in the air to a tune that made one dizzy; 
though one took comfort at the worst in feeling that 
one was there to catch her if she fell. Falling, at the 
same time, appeared scarce one of her properties, and 
it was positive for Lady Champer at moments that 
if one held out one's arms one might be after all 
much more likely to be pulled up. That was really 
a part of the excitement of the acquaintance. 

"Well," said this friend and critic on one of the 
first of the London days, "say he does, on your return 
to your own country, go after you ; what do you read 
into that occurrence as the course of events ? " 

"Why if he comes after me I'll have him." 
375 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

"And do you think it so easy to 'have' him ?" 

Lily appeared, lovely and candid — and it was an 
air and a way she often had — to wonder what she 
thought. "I don't know that I think it any easier 
than he seems to think it to have me. I know more- 
over that, though he wants awfully to see the country, 
he would n't just now come to America unless to 
marry me; and if I take him at all," she pursued, 
" I want first to be able to show him to the girls." 

" Why ' first ' ? " Lady Champer asked. " Would n't 
it do as well last ? " 

"Oh I should want them to see me in Rome too," 
said Lily. " But, dear me, I 'm afraid I want a good 
many things ! What I most want of course is that 
he should show me unmistakeably what he wants. 
Unless he wants me more than anything else in the 
world I don't want him. Besides, I hope he does n't 
think I'm going to be married anywhere but in my 
own place." 

"I see," said Lady Champer. "It's for your wed- 
ding you want the girls. And it's for the girls you 
want the Prince." 

"Well, we're all bound by that promise. And of 
course you 'II come ! " 

"Ah my dear child — !" Lady Champer gasped. 

"You can come with the old Princess. You'll be 
just the right company for her." 

The elder friend considered afresh, with depth, 
the younger's beauty and serenity. "You are, love, 
beyond everything!" 

The beauty and serenity took on for a moment a 
graver cast. "Why do you so often say that to me ?" 

376 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

"Because you so often make it the only thing to 
say. But you'll some day find out why," Lady 
Champer added with an intention of encouragement. 

Lily Gunton, however, was a young person to 
whom encouragement looked queer; she had grown 
up without need of it, and it seemed indeed scarce 
required in her situation. "Do you mean you believe 
his mother won't come ?" 

"Over mountains and seas to see you married .? — 
and to be seen also of the girls ? If she does I will. 
But we had perhaps better," Lady Champer wound 
up, "not count our chickens before they're hatched." 
To which, with one of the easy returns of gaiety 
that were irresistible in her, Lily made answer that 
neither of the ladies in question struck her quite as 
a chicken. 

The Prince at all events presented himself in Lon- 
don with a promptitude that contributed to make 
the warning gratuitous. Nothing could have ex- 
ceeded, by this time. Lady Champer's appreciation 
of her young friend, whose merits "town" at the 
beginning of June threw into renewed relief; but she 
had the imagination of greatness and, though she 
believed she tactfully kept it to herself, she thought 
what the young man had thus done a great deal for 
a Roman prince to do. Take him as he was, with 
the circumstances — and they were certainly peculiar, 
and he was charming — it was a far cry for him from 
Piazza Colonna to Qarges Street. If Lady Champer 
had the imagination of greatness, which the Prince 
in all sorts of ways gratified, Miss Gunton of Pough- 
keepsie — it was vain to pretend the contrary — was 

377 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

not great in any particular save one. She was great 
when she " drew." It was true that at the beginning 
of June she did draw with unprecedented energy and 
in a manner that, though Mrs. Brine's remarkable 
nerve apparently could stand it, fairly made a poor 
baronet's widow, little as it was her business, hold her 
breath. It was none of her business at all, yet she 
talked of it even with the Prince himself — to whom 
it was indeed a favourite subject and whose great- 
ness, oddly enough, never appeared to shrink in the 
effect it produced on him. The line they took to- 
gether was that of wondering if the scale of Lily's 
drafts made really most for the presumption that the 
capital at her disposal was rapidly dwindling, or for 
that of its being practically infinite. "Many a fel- 
low," the young man smiled, "would marry her to 
pull her up." He was in any case of the opinion that 
it was an occasion for deciding — one way or the 
other — quickly. Well, he did decide — so quickly 
that within the week Lily communicated to her friend 
that he had offered her his hand, his heart, his for- 
tune and all his titles, grandeurs and appurtenances- 
She had given him his answer, and he was in bliss; 
though nothing as yet was settled but that. 

Tall fair active educated amiable simple, carry- 
ing so naturally his great name and pronouncing so 
kindly Lily's small one, the happy youth, if he was 
one of the most ancient of princes, was one of the 
most modern of Romans. This second character it 
was his special aim and pride to cultivate. He 
would have been pained at feeling himself an hour 
behind his age; and he had a way — both touching 

378 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

and amusing to some observers — of constantly com- 
paring his watch with the dial of the day's news. It 
was in fact easy to see that in deciding to ally him- 
self with a young alien of vague origin, whose strik- 
ing beauty was re-enforced only by her presumptive 
money, he had even put forward a little the fine 
hands of his timepiece. No one else, however — not 
even Lady Champer, and least of all Lily herself — 
had quite taken the measure, in this connexion, of 
his merit. The quick decision he had spoken of was 
really a flying leap. He desired incontestably to 
rescue Miss Gunton's remainder; but to rescue it he 
had to take it for granted, and taking it for granted 
was nothing less than — at whatever angle considered 
— a risk. He never, naturally, used the word to her, 
but he distinctly faced a peril. The sense of what 
he had staked on a vague return gave him, at the 
height of the London season, bad nights, or rather 
bad mornings — for he danced with his intended, 
as a usual thing, conspicuously, till dawn — besides 
obliging him to take, in the form of long explanatory 
argumentative and persuasive letters to his mother 
and sisters, his uncles, aunts, cousins and preferred 
confidants, large measures of justification at home. 
The family sense was strong in his huge old house, 
just as the family array was numerous ; he was duti- 
fully conscious of the trust reposed in him and 
moved from morning till night, he perfectly knew, as 
the observed of a phalanx of observers ; whereby he 
the more admired himself for his passion, precipita- 
tion and courage. He had only a probability to go 
upon, but he was — and by the romantic tradition of 

379 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

his race — so in love that he should surely not be 
taken in. 

His private agitation of course deepened when, to 
do honour to her engagement and as if she would 
have been ashamed to do less, Lily "drew" again 
most gloriously; but he managed to smile beauti- 
fully on her asking him if he did n't want her to be 
splendid, and at his worst hours he went no further 
than to wish he might be married on the morrow. 
Unless it were the next day, or at most the next month, 
it really at moments seemed best it should never be 
at all. On the most favourable view — with the solid- 
ity of the residuum fully assumed — there were still 
minor questions and dangers. A vast America, arch- 
ing over his nuptials, bristling with expectant brides- 
maids and underlaying their feet with expensive 
flowers, stared him in the face and prompted him 
to the reflexion that if she dipped so deep into the 
mere remote overflow her dive into the fount itself 
would verily be a header. If she drew at such a rate 
in London how would n't she draw at Poughkeepsie ? 
he asked himself, and practically asked Lady Cham- 
per ; yet bore the strain of the question — all without 
an answer — so nobly that when, with small delay, 
Poughkeepsie seemed simply to heave with reassur- 
ances, he regarded the ground as firm and his tact 
as rewarded. "And now at last, dearest," he said, 
"since everything's so satisfactory, you will write?" 
He put it appealingly, endearingly, yet as if he could 
scarce doubt. 

"Write, love? Why," she replied, "I've done 
nothing but write ! I 've written ninety letters." 

380 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

" But not to mamma," he smiled. 

"Mamma?" — she stared. "My dear boy, I've 
not at this time of day to remind you that I 've the 
misfortune to have no mother. I lost mamma, you 
know, as you lost your father, in childhood. You 
may be sure," said Lily Gunton, "that I wouldn't 
otherwise have waited for you to prompt me." 

There came into his face a kind of amiable con- 
vulsion. "Of course, darling, I remember — your 
beautiful mother (she must have been beautiful!) 
whom I should have been so glad to know. I was 
thinking of my mamma — who '11 be so delighted to 
hear from you." The Prince spoke English in per- 
fection — had lived in it from the cradle and appeared, 
particularly when alluding to his home and family, 
to matters familiar and of fact, or to those of dress and 
sport, of general recreation, to draw such a comfort 
from it as made the girl think of him as scarce more 
a foreigner than a pleasant auburn slightly awk- 
ward slighdy slangy and extremely well-tailored young 
Briton would have been. He sounded "mamma" 
like a rosy English school-boy; yet just then, for the 
first time, the things with which he was connected 
struck her as in a manner strange and far-off. Every- 
thing in him, none the less — face and voice and tact, 
above all his deep desire — laboured to bring them 
near and make them natural. This was intensely 
the case as he went on : " Such a little letter as you 
might send would really be awfully jolly." 

"My dear child," Lily replied on quick reflexion, 
" I '11 write to her with joy the minute I hear from 
her. Won't she write to me?" 

381 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

The Prince just visibly flushed. "In a moment 
ifyou'llonly— " 

"Write to her first?" 

" Just pay her a little — no matter how little -7- 
your respects." 

His attenuation of the degree expressed perhaps a 
weakness of position ; yet it was no perception of this 
that made the girl immediately say: "Oh, caro, I 
don't think I can begin. If you feel that she won't — 
as you evidently do — is it because you 've asked her 
and she has refused ? " The next moment, " I see you 
have !" she exclaimed. His rejoinder to this was to 
catch her in his arms, to press his cheek to hers, to 
murmur a flood of tender words in which contradic- 
tion, confession, supplication and remonstrance were 
oddly confounded; but after he had sufficiently dis- 
engaged her to allow her to speak again his eff"usion 
was checked by what came. "Do you really mean 
you can't induce her ? " It renewed itself on the first 
return of ease ; or it, more correctly perhaps, in order 
to renew itself, took this return — a trifle too soon — 
for granted. Singular, for the hour, was the quickness 
with which ease could leave them — so blissfully at 
one as they were; and, to be brief, it had not come 
back even when Lily spoke of the matter to Lady 
Champer. It 's true she waited but little to do so. 
She went straight to the point. "What would you 
do if his mother does n't write ? " 

"The old Princess — to you ?" Her ladyship had 
not had time to mount guard in advance over the 
tone of this, which was doubtless (as she instantly, 
for that matter, herself became aware) a little too 

382 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

much that of " Have you really expected she would ? " 
What Lily had expected found itself therefore not 
unassisted to come out — and came out indeed to 
such a tune that with all kindness, but with a melan- 
choly deeper than any she had ever yet in the general 
connexion used, Lady Champer was moved to remark 
that the situation might have been found more pos- 
sible had a little more historic sense been brought to it. 
"You're the dearest thing in the world, and I can't 
imagine a girl's carrying herself in any way, in a diffi- 
cult position, better than you do ; only I 'm bound to 
say I think you ought to remember that you 're enter- 
ing a very great house, of tremendous antiquity, 
fairly groaning under the weight of ancient honours, 
the heads of which — through the tradition of the 
great part they 've played in the world — are accus- 
tomed to a great deal of deference. The old Princess, 
my dear, you see " — her ladyship gathered confid- 
ence a little as she went — "is a most prodigious 
personage." 

"Why, Lady Champer, of course she is, and that's 
just what I liked her for ! " said Lily Gunton. 

"She has never in her whole Hfe made an advance, 
any more than any one has ever dreamed of expect- 
ing it of her. It 's a pity that while you were there 
you did n't see her, for I think it would have helped 
you to understand. However, as you did see his 
sisters, the two Duchesses and dear little Donna 
Claudia, you know how charming they all can be. 
They only want to be nice, I know, and I dare say 
that on the smallest opportunity you'll hear from 
the Duchesses." 

383 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

The plural had a sound of splendour, but Lily 
quite kept her head. "What do you call an oppor- 
tunity ? Am I not giving them, by accepting their son 
and brother, the best — and in fact the only — oppor- 
tunity they could desire ? " 

" I like the way, darling," Lady Champer smiled, 
"you talk about 'accepting'!" ' 

Lily thought of this — she thought of everything. 
"Well, say it would have been a better one still for 
them if I had refused him." 

Her friend caught her up. " But you have n't." 

"Then they must make the most of the occasion 
as it is." Lily was very sweet, but very lucid. "The 
Duchesses may write or not, as they like; but I'm 
afraid the Princess simply must." She hesitated, but 
after a moment went on : " He ought n't to be willing 
moreover that I should n't expect to be welcomed." 

"He isn't!" Lady Champer blurted out. 

Lily jumped at it. "Then he has told you? It's 
her attitude?" 

She had spoken without passion, but her friend was 
scarce the less frightened. "My poor child, what can 
he do?" 

Lily saw perfectly. "He can make her." 

Lady Champer turned it over, but her fears were 
what was clearest. "And if he does n't ? " 

"If he 'does n't' ?" The girl ambiguously echoed it. 

" I mean if he can't." 

Well, Lily more cheerfully declined for the hour 
to consider this. He would certainly do for her what 
was right; so that after all, though she had herself 
put the question, she disclaimed the idea that an 

384 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

answer was urgent. There was time, she conveyed 
— which Lady Champer only desired to believe; a 
faith moreover somewhat shaken in the latter when 
the Prince entered her room the next day with the 
information that there was none — none at least to 
leave everything in the air. Lady Champer had n't 
yet made up her mind which of these young persons 
she liked most to draw into confidence, nor whether 
she most inclined to take the Roman side with the 
American or the American side with the Roman. But 
now in truth she was settled ; she gave proof of it in 
the increased lucidity with which she spoke for Lily. 
" Would n't the Princess depart — a — from her 
usual attitude for such a great occasion ? " 

The difficulty was a little that the young man so 
well understood his mother. "The devil of it is, you 
see, that it's for Lily herself, so much more, she 
thinks the occasion great." 

Lady Champer mused. " If you had n't her con- 
sent I could understand it. But from the moment 
she thinks the girl good enough for you to marry — " 

"Ah she does n't! " the Prince gloomily interposed. 
"However," he explained, "she accepts her because 
there are reasons — my own feeling, now so my very 
life, don't you see ? But it is n't quite open arms. All 
the same, as I tell Lily, the arms would open." 

"If she'd make the first step? Hum!" said Lady 
Champer, not without the note of grimness. " She'll 
be obstinate." 

The young man, with a melancholy eye, quite 
coincided. "She'll be obstinate." 

"So that I strongly recommend you to manage it," 

385 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

his friend went on after a pause. "It strikes me that 
if the Princess can't do it for Lily she might at least 
do it for you. Any girl you marry becomes by that 
fact somebody." 

"Of course — does n't she ? She certainly ought to 
do it for me. I 'm after all the head of the house." 

"Well then make her ! " said Lady Champer a little 
impatiently. 

"I will. Mamma adores me, and I adore her." 

"And you adore Lily, and Lily adores you — there- 
fore everybody adores everybody, especially as I adore 
you both. Therefore with so much adoration all 
round things ought to march." 

"They shall ! " the young man declared with spirit. 
" I adore you too — you don't mention that ; for you 
help me immensely. But what do you suppose she '11 
do if she does n't ? " 

The agitation already visible in him ministered a 
little to vagueness, but his friend after an instant 
disembroiled it. " What do I suppose Lily vidll do if 
your mother remains stiff ? " Lady Champer faltered, 
but she let him have it. "She'll break." 

His wondering eyes became strange. "Just for 
that?" 

" You may certainly say it is n't much — when 
people love as you do." 

"Ah I'm afraid then Lily doesn't!" — and he 
turned away in his trouble. 

She watched him while he moved, not speaking 
for a minute. "My dear young man, are you afraid 
of your mamma ? " 

He faced short about again. " I 'm afraid of this 
386 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

— that if she does do it she won't forgive her. She 
wtll do it — yes. But Lily will be for her in conse- 
quence, ever after, the person who has made her sub- 
mit herself. She '11 hate her for that — and then she '11 
hate me for being concerned in it." The Prince 
presented it all with clearness — almost with charm. 
"What do you say to that ?" 

His friend had to think. "Well, only, I fear, that 
we belong, Lily and I, to a race unaccustomed to 
counting with such passions. I think they affect us as 
having a taste of the wicked cinque-cento, of Borgia 
poison. Let her hate ! " she, however, a trifle incon- 
sistently wound up. 

"But I love her so!" 

"Which ?" Lady Champer asked it almost ungra- 
ciously; in such a tone at any rate that, seated on 
the sofa with his elbows at his knees, his much- 
ringed hands nervously locked together and his eyes 
of distress wide open, he met her with visible surprise. 
What she met him with is perhaps best noted by the 
fact that after a minute of it his hands covered his 
bent face and she became aware she had drawn tears. 
This produced such regret in her that before they 
parted she did what she could to attenuate and explain 
— making a great point at all events of her rule, with 
Lily, of putting only his own side of the case. " I insist 
awfully, you know, on your greatness!" 

He jumped up, wincing. "Oh that's horrid." 

" I don't know. Whose fault is it then, at any rate, 
if trying to help you may have that side ? " This was a 
question that, with the tangle he had already to un- 
wind, only added a twist ; yet she went on as if positively 

387 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

to add another. "Why on earth don't you, all of you, 
leave them alone ? " 

"Leave them — ?" 

"All your Americans." 
i " Don't you like them then — the women ? " 

She debated, "No. Yes. They're an interest. 
But they're a nuisance. It's a question, very cer- 
tainly, if they 're worth the trouble they give." 

This at least it seemed he could take in. "You 
mean one should be quite sure first what they are 
worth?" 

He made her laugh now. "It would appear you 
never can be. But also really that you can't keep 
your hands off." 

He fixed the social scene an instant with his heavy 
eye. "Yes. Does n't it?" 

"However," she pursued as if he again a little 
irritated her, "Lily's position is quite simple." 

"Quite. She just loves me." 

"I mean simple for herself. She really makes no 
differences. It 's only we — you and I — who make 
them all." 

The Prince wondered. "But she tells me she 
delights in us ; has, that is, such a sense of what we 
are supposed to 'represent.'" 

"Oh she thinks she has. Americans think they 
have all sorts of things; but they haven't. That's 
just it" — Lady Champer was philosophic. "No- 
thing but their Americanism. If you marry anything 
you marry that; and if your mother accepts anything 
that's what she accepts." Then, though the young 
man followed the demonstration with an apprehen- 

388 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

sion almost pathetic, she gave him without mercy 
the whole of it. "Lily's rigidly logical. A girl — as 
she knows girls — is "'welcomed,' on her engagement, 
before anything else can happen, by the family of her 
young man ; and the motherless girl alone in the world 
more punctually than any other. His mother — 
if she's a Mady' — takes it upon herself. Then the 
girl goes and stays with them. But she does nothing 
before. Tirez-vous de la." 

The young man sought on the spot to obey this 
last injunction, and his effort presently produced a 
flash. " Oh if she '11 come and stay with us " — all 
would easily be well ! The flash went out, however, 
when Lady Champer returned: "Then let the 
Princess invite her." 

Lily a fortnight later simply said to her from one 
hour to the other "I'm going home," and took her 
breath away by sailing on the morrow with the 
Bransbys. The tense cord had somehow snapped; 
the proof was in the fact that the Prince, dashing 
off to his good friend at this crisis an obscure, an 
ambiguous note, started the same night for Rome. 
Lady Champer, for the time, sat in darkness, but 
during the summer many things occurred; and one 
day in the autumn, quite unheralded and with the 
signs of some of them in his face, the Prince appeared 
again before her. He was n't long in telling her his 
story, which was simply that he had come to her, all 
the way from Rome, for news of Lily and to talk of 
Lily. She was prepared, as it happened, to meet his 
impatience; yet her preparation was but little older 
than his arrival and was deficient moreover in an 

389 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

important particular. She was n't prepared to 
knock him down, and she made him talk to gain 
time. She had however, to understand, put a primary 
question : " She never wrote then ? " 
i "Mamma ? Oh yes — when she at last got frightened 
at Miss Gunton's having become so silent. She 
wrote in August ; but Lily's own decisive letter — 
letter to me, I mean — crossed with it. It was too 
late — that put an end." 

"Ar^fl/end?" 

Everything in the young man showed how real. 
"On the ground of her being willing no longer to 
keep up, by the stand she had taken, such a relation 
between mamma and me. But her rupture," he 
wailed, "keeps it up more than anything else." 

"And is it very bad ?" 

"Awful, I assure you. I 've become for my mother 
a person who has made her make, all for nothing, an 
unprecedented advance, a humble submission; and 
she 's so disgusted, all round, that it 's no longer the 
same old charming thing for us to be together. It 
makes it worse for her that I 'm still madly in love." 

"Well," said Lady Champer after a moment, "if 
you're still madly in love I can only be sorry for 
you." 

"You can do nothing for me } — don't advise me 
to go over .? " 

She had to take a longer pause. "You don't at all 
know then what has happened? — that old Mr. 
Gunton has died and left her everything ? " 

All his vacancy and curiosity came out in a wild 
echo. "'Everything'?" 

390 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

"She writes me that it's a great deal of money." 

"You've just heard from her then ?" 

"This morning. I seem to make out," said Lady 
Champer, "an extraordinary number of dollars." 

"Oh I was sure it was!" the young man moaned. 

"And she's engaged," his friend went on, "to Mr. 
Bransby." 

He bounded, rising before her. "Mr. Bransby?" 
': "'Adam P.' — the gentleman with whose mother 
and sisters she went home. They, she writes, have 
beautifully welcomed her." 

"Dio mio!" The Prince stared; he had flushed 
with the blow and the tears had come into his eyes. 
"And I beheved she loved me!" 

"/ did n't!" said Lady Champer with some curt- 
ness. 

He gazed about; he almost rocked; and, un- 
conscious of her words, he appealed, inarticulate 
and stricken. At last however he found his voice. 
"What on earth then shall I do ? I can less than 
ever go back to mamma!" 

She got up for him, she thought for him, pushing 
a better chair into her circle. "Stay here with me 
and I '11 ring for tea. Sit there nearer the fire — you 're 
cold." 

"Awfully!" he confessed as he sank. "And I be- 
lieved she loved me ! " he repeated as he stared at 
the fire. 

"/ did n't!" Lady Champer once more declared. 
This time, visibly, he heard her, and she immediately 
met his wonder. "No — it was all the rest; your 
great historic position, the glamour of your name 

391 



MISS GUNTON OF POUGHKEEPSIE 

and your past. Otherwise what she stood out for 
would n't be excusable. But she has the sense of 
such things, and they were what she loved." So, by 
the fire, his hostess explained it while he wondered 
the more. 

"I thought that last summer you told me just the 
contrary." 

It seemed, to do her justice, to strike her. " Did I ? 
Oh well, how does one know ? With Americans 
one's lost!" 



FORDHAM CASTLE 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

Sharp little Madame Massin, who carried on the 
pleasant pension and who had her small hard eyes 
everywhere at once, came out to him on the terrace 
and held up a letter addressed in a manner that he 
recognised even from afar, held it up with a question 
in her smile, or a smile, rather a pointed one, in her 
question — he could scarce have said which. She was 
looking, while so occupied, at the German group en- 
gaged in the garden, near by, with aperitive beer and 
disputation — the noonday luncheon being now im- 
minent ; and the way in which she could show prompt 
lips while her observation searchingly ranged might 
have reminded him of the object placed by a spectator 
at the theatre in the seat he desires to keep during the 
entr'acte. Conscious of the cross-currents of inter- 
national passion, she tried, so far as possible, not to 
mix her sheep and her goats. The view of the bluest 
end of the Lake of Geneva — she insisted in persuas- 
ive circulars that it was the bluest — had never, 
on her high-perched terrace, wanted for admirers, 
though thus early in the season, during the first days 
of May, they were not so numerous as she was apt 
to see them at midsummer. This precisely, Abel 
Taker could infer, was the reason of a remark she 
had made him before the claims of the letter had 
been settled. "I shall put you next the American 
lady — the one who arrived yesterday. I know you '11 

395 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

be kind to her; she had to go to bed, as soon as she got 
here, with a sick-headache brought on by her journey. 
But she 's better. Who is n't better as soon as they 
get here ? She 's coming down, and I 'm sure she 'd 
like to know you." 

Taker had now the letter in his hand — the letter 
intended for "Mr. C. P. Addard "; which was not the 
name inscribed in the two or three books he had left 
out in his room, any more than it matched the initials, 
"A. F. T." attached to the few pieces of his modest 
total of luggage. Moreover, since Madame Massin's 
establishment counted, to his still somewhat bewild- 
ered mind, so little for an hotel, as hotels were mainly 
known to him, he had avoided the act of " registering," 
and the missive with which his hostess was practically 
testing him represented the very first piece of postal 
matter taken in since his arrival that had n't been 
destined to some one else. He had privately blushed 
for the meagreness of his mail, which made him look 
unimportant. That however was a detail, an ap- 
pearance he was used to ; indeed the reasons making 
for such an appearance might never have been so 
pleasant to him as on this vision of his identity formally 
and legibly denied. It was denied there in his wife's 
large straight hand ; his eyes, attached to the envelope, 
took in the failure of any symptom of weakness in her 
stroke ; she at least had the courage of his passing for 
somebody he was n't, of his passing rather for nobody 
at all, and he felt the force of her character more irre- 
sistibly than ever as he thus submitted to what she 
wasdoingwith him. He wasn't used to lying; whatever 
his faults — and he was used, perfectly, to the idea of 

396 ' 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

his faults — he had n't made them worse by any per- 
verse theory, any tortuous plea, of innocence; so that 
probably, with every inch of him giving him away, 
Madame Massin did n't beheve him a bit when he 
appropriated the letter. He was quite aware he could 
have made no fight if she had challenged his right to 
it. That would have come of his making no fight, 
nowadays, on any ground, with any woman ; he had 
so lost the proper spirit, the necessary confidence. It 
was true that he had had to do for a long time with 
no woman in the world but Sue, and of the practice 
of opposition so far as Sue was concerned the end 
had been determined early in his career. His hostess 
fortunately accepted his word, but the way in which 
her momentary attention bored into his secret like 
the turn of a gimlet gave him a sense of the quantity 
of life that passed before her as a dealer with all 
comers — gave him almost an awe of her power of not 
wincing. She knew he was n't, he could n't be, C. P. 
Addard, even though she might n't know, or still less 
care, who he was ; and there was therefore something 
queer about him if he pretended to be. That was 
what she did n't mind, there being something queer 
about him ; and what was further present to him was 
that she would have known when to mind, when 
really to be on her guard. She attached no import- 
ance to his trick; she had doubtless somewhere at 
the rear, amid the responsive underlings with whom 
she was sometimes heard volubly, yet so obscurely, 
to chatter, her clever French amusement about it. 
He could n't at all events have said if the whole pass- 
age with her most brought home to him the falsity 

397 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

of his position or most glossed it over. On the whole 
perhaps it rather helped him, since from this moment 
his masquerade had actively begun. 

Taking his place for luncheon, in any case, he 
found himself next the American lady, as he con- 
ceived, spoken of by Madame Massin — in whose 
appearance he was at first as disappointed as if, a 
little, though all unconsciously, he had been building 
on it. Had she loomed into view, on their hostess's 
hint, as one of the vague alternatives, the possible be- 
guilements, of his leisure — presenting herself solidly 
where so much else had refused to crystallise ? It was 
certain at least that she presented herself solidly, being 
a large mild smooth person with a distinct double 
chin, with grey hair arranged in small flat regular 
circles, figures of a geometrical perfection ; with dia- 
mond earrings, with a long-handled eye-glass, with 
an accumulation of years and of weight and pre- 
sence, in fine, beyond what his own rather melan- 
choly consciousness acknowledged. He was forty- 
five, and it took every year of his life, took all he 
had n't done with them, to account for his present 
situation — since you could n't be, conclusively, of 
so little use, of so scant an application, to any mortal 
career, above all to your own, unless you had been 
given up and cast aside after a long succession of 
experiments tried with you. But the American lady 
with the mathematical hair which reminded him in 
a manner of the old-fashioned "work," the weeping 
willows and mortuary urns represented by the little 
glazed-over flaxen or auburn or sable or silvered con- 
volutions and tendrils, the capillary flowers, that he 

398 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

had admired in the days of his innocence — the 
American lady had probably seen her half-century; all 
the more that before luncheon was done she had 
begun to strike him as having, like himself, slipped 
slowly down over its stretched and shiny surface, an 
expanse as insecure to fumbling feet as a great cold 
curved ice-field, into the comparatively warm hollow 
of resignation and obscurity. She gave him from the 
first — and he was afterwards to see why — an at- 
taching impression of being, like himself, in exile, 
and of having like himself learned to butter her 
bread with a certain acceptance of fate. The only 
thing that puzzled him on this head was that to 
parallel his own case she would have had openly to 
consent to be shelved; which made the difficulty, 
here, that that was exactly what, as between wife 
and husband, remained unthinkable on the part of 
the wife. The necessity for the shelving of one or 
the other was a case that appeared often to arise, 
but this was n't the way he had in general seen it 
settled. She made him in short, through some influ- 
ence he could n't immediately reduce to its elements, 
vaguely think of her as sacrificed — without blood, 
as it were; as obligingly and persuadedly passive. 
Yet this effect, a reflexion of his own state, would 
doubtless have been better produced for him by a 
mere melancholy man. She testified unmistakeably 
to the greater energy of women ; for he could think 
of no manifestation of spirit on his own part that 
might pass for an equivalent, in the way of resistance, 
of protest, to the rhythmic though rather wiggy 
water-waves that broke upon her bald-looking brow 

399 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

as upon a beach bared by a low tide. He had cocked 
up often enough — and as with the intention of doing 
it still more under Sue's nose than under his own — ■ 
the two ends of his half-" sandy" half-grizzled mous- 
tache, and he had in fact given these ornaments an 
extra twist just before coming in to luncheon. That 
however was but a momentary flourish; the most 
marked ferocity of which had n't availed not to land 
him — well, where he was landed now. 

His new friend mentioned that she had come up 
from Rome and that Madame Massin's establish- 
ment had been highly spoken of to her there, and this, 
slight as it was, straightway contributed in its degree 
for Abel Taker to the idea that they had something 
in common. He was in a condition in which he could 
feel the drift of vague currents, and he knew how 
highly the place had been spoken of to him. There 
was but a shade of difference in his having had his 
lesson in Florence. He let his companion know, 
without reserve, that he too had come up from Italy, 
after spending three or four months there : though he 
remembered in time that, being now C. P. Addard, 
it was only as C. P. Addard he could speak. He tried 
to think, in order to give himself something to say, 
what C. P. Addard would have done; but he was 
doomed to feel always, in the whole connexion, his 
lack of imagination. He had had many days to come 
to it and nothing else to do ; but he had n't even yet 
made up his mind who C. P. Addard was or invested 
him with any distinguishing marks. He felt like a man 
who, moving in this, that or the other direction, saw 
each successively lead him to some danger; so that he, 

400 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

began to ask himself why he should n't just lie out- 
right, boldly and inventively, and see what that could 
do for him. There was an excitement, the excitement 
of personal risk, about it — much the same as would 
belong for an ordinary man to the first trial of a fly- 
ing-machine; yet it was exactly such a course as Sue 
had prescribed on his asking her what he should do. 
"Anything in the world you hke but talk about me: 
think of some other woman, as bad and bold as you 
please, and say you 're married to her." Those had 
been literally her words, together with others, again 
and again repeated, on the subject of his being free 
to "kill and bury" her as often as he chose. This 
was the way she had met his objection to his own 
death and interment; she had asked him, in her 
bright hard triumphant way, why he could n't defend 
himself by shooting back. The real reason was of 
course that he was nothing without her, whereas she 
was everything, could be anything in the wide world 
she liked, without him. That question precisely 
had been a part of what was before him while he 
strolled in the projected green gloom of Madame 
Massin's plane-trees; he wondered what she was 
choosing to be and how good a time it was helping 
her to have. He could be sure she was rising to it, 
on some line or other, and that was what secretly 
made him say: "Why should n't I get something out 
of it too, just for the harmless fun — ? " 

It kept coming back to him, naturally, that he 
had n't the breadth of fancy, that he knew himself 
as he knew the taste of ill-made coffee, that he was 
the same old Abel Taker he had ever been, in whose 

401 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

aggregation of items it was as vain to feel about for 
latent heroisms as it was useless to rummage one's 
trunk for presentable clothes that one did n't possess. 
But did that absolve him (having so definitely Sue's 
: permission) from seeing to what extent he might 
temporarily make believe ? If he were to flap his 
wings very hard and crow very loud and take as long 
a jump as possible at the same time — if he were to 
do all that perhaps he should achieve for half a min- 
ute the sensation of soaring. He knew only one thing 
Sue could n't do, from the moment she did n't di- 
vorce him : she could n't get rid of his name, unaccount- 
ably, after all, as she hated it; she could n't get rid 
of it because she would have always sooner or later 
to come back to it. She might consider that her being 
a thing so dreadful as Mrs. Abel Taker was a stumb- 
ling-block in her social path that nothing but his 
real, his ofiicial, his advertised circulated demise 
(with "American papers please copy") would avail 
to dislodge : she would have none the less to reckon 
with his continued existence as the drop of bitter- 
ness in her cup that seasoned undisguiseably each 
draught. He might make use of his present oppor- 
tunity to row out into the lake with his pockets full 
of stones and there quietly slip overboard; but he 
could think of no shorter cut for her ceasing to be 
what her marriage and the law of the land had made 
her. She was not an inch less Mrs. Abel Taker for 
these days of his sequestration, and the only thing 
she indeed claimed was that the concealment of the 
source of her shame, the suppression of the person 
who had divided with her his inherited absurdity,. 

402 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

made the difference of a shade or two for getting hon- 
ourably, as she called it, "about." How she had orig- 
inally come to incur this awful inconvenience — 
that part of the matter, left to herself, she would 
undertake to keep vague; and she wasn't really left to 
herself so long as he too flaunted the dreadful flag. 

This was why she had provided him with another 
and placed him out at board, to constitute, as it were, 
a permanent alibi; telling him she should quarrel 
with no colours under which he might elect to sail, and 
promising to take him back when she had got where 
she wanted. She would n't mind so much then — 
she only wanted a fair start. It was n't a fair start 
— was it ? she asked him frankly — so long as he was 
always there, so terribly cruelly there, to speak of 
what she had been. She had been nothing worse, 
to his sense, than a very pretty girl of eighteen out 
in Peoria, who had seen at that time no one else she 
wanted more to marry, nor even any one who had 
been so supremely struck by her. That, absolutely, 
was the worst that could be said of her. It was so 
bad at any rate in her own view — it had grown so 
bad in the widening light of life — that it had fairly 
become more than she could bear and that something, 
as she said, had to be done about it. She had n't 
known herself originally any more than she had 
known him — had n't foreseen how much better she 
was going to come out, nor how, for her individually, 
as distinguished from him, there might be the pos- 
sibility of a big future. He could n't be explained 
away — he cried out with all his dreadful presence 
that she had been pleased to marry him; and what 

403 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

they therefore had to do must transcend explaining. 
It was perhaps now helping her, ofF there in London, 
and especially at Fordham Castle — she was staying 
last at Fordham Castle, Wilts — it was perhaps 
inspiring her even more than she had expected, that 
they were able to try together this particular substi- 
tute ; news of her progress in fact — her progress on 
from Fordham Castle, if anything could be higher 

— would not improbably be contained in the un- 
opened letter he had lately pocketed. 

There was a given moment at luncheon mean- 
while, in his talk with his countrywoman, when he did 
try that flap of the wing — did throw off, for a flight 
into the blue, the first falsehood he could think of. 
"I stopped in Italy, you see, on my way back from 
the East, where I had gone — to Constantinople" 

— he rose actually to Constantinople — "to visit 
Mrs. Addard's grave." And after they had all come 
out to coff"ee in the rustling shade, with the vocifer- 
ous German tribe at one end of the terrace, the Eng- 
lish family keeping silence with an English accent, 
as it struck him, in the middle, and his direction taken, 
by his new friend's side, to the other unoccupied 
corner, he found himself oppressed with what he 
had on his hands, the burden of keeping up this 
expensive fiction. He had never been to Constan- 
tinople — it could easily be proved against him ; he 
ought to have thought of something better, have got 
his efi^ect on easier terms. Yet a funnier thing still 
than this quick repentance was the quite equally 
fictive ground on which his companion had affected 
him — when he came to think of it — as meeting him. 

404 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

"Why you know that's very much the same er- 
rand that took me to Rome. I visited the grave of 
my daughter — whom I lost there some time ago." 

She had turned her face to him after making this 
statement, looked at him with an odd blink of her 
round kind plain eyes, as if to see how he took it. 
He had taken it on the spot, for this was the only 
thing to do ; but he had felt how much deeper down 
he was himself sinking as he repHed : "Ah it's a sad 
pleasure, is n't it ? But those are places one does n't 
want to neglect." 

"Yes — that's what I feel. I go," his neighbour 
had solemnly pursued, "about every two years." 

With which she had looked away again, leaving him 
really not able to emulate her. "Well, I had n't been 
before. You see it 's a long way." 

"Yes — that's the trying part. It makes you feel 
you'd have done better — " 

"To bring them right home and have it done over 
there .' " he had asked as she let the sad subject go 
a little. He quite agreed. "Yes — that's what many 
do." 

"But it gives of course a pecuHar interest." So 
they had kept it up. " I mean in places that might n't 
have so very much." 

"Places Hke Rome and Constantinople?" he had 
rejoined while he noticed the cautious anxious sound 
of her " very." The tone was to come back to him, 
and it had already made him feel sorry for her, with 
its suggestion of her being at sea like himself. Un- 
mistakeably, poor lady, she too was trying to float — 
was striking out in timid convulsive movements. 

405 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

Well, he would n't make it difficult for her, and im- 
mediately, so as not to appear to cast any ridicule, he 
observed that, wherever great bereavements might 
have occurred, there was no place so remarkable as 
not to gain an association. Such memories made at 
the least another object for coming. It was after this 
recognition, on either side, that they adjourned to 
the garden — Taker having in his ears again the 
good lady's rather troubled or muddled echo: "Oh 
yes, when you come to all the objects — ! " The grave 
of one's wife or one's daughter was an object quite 
as much as all those that one looked up in Baedeker 
— those of the family of the Castle of Chillon and 
the Dent du Midi, features of the view to be enjoyed 
from different parts of Madame Massin's premises. 
It was very soon, none the less, rather as if these latter 
presences, diffusing their reality and majesty, had 
taken the colour out of all other evoked romance; 
and to that degree that when Abel's fellow guest 
happened to lay down on the parapet of the terrace 
three or four articles she had brought out with her, 
her fan^ a couple of American newspapers and a 
letter that had obviously come to her by the same 
post as his oAvn, he availed himself of the accident to 
jump at a further conclusion. Their coffee, which 
was "extra," as he knew and as, in the way of 
benevolence, he boldly warned her, was brought forth 
to them, and while she was giving her attention to 
her demi-tasse he let his eyes rest for three seconds 
on the superscription of her letter. His mind was by 
this time made up, and the beauty of it was that he 
could n't have said why : the letter was from her 

406 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

daughter, whom she had been burying for him in 
Rome, and it would be addressed in a name that was 
really no more hers than the name his wife had thrust 
upon him was his. Her daughter had put her out at 
cheap board, pending higher issues, just as Sue had 
put him — so that there was a logic not other than 
fine in his notifying her of what coffee every day 
might let her in for. She was addressed on her en- 
velope as "Mrs. Vanderplank," but he had priv- 
ately arrived, before she so much as put down her 
cup, at the conviction that this was a borrowed and 
lawless title, for all the world as if, poor dear inno- 
cent woman, she were a bold bad adventuress. He 
had acquired furthermore the moral certitude that he 
was on the track, as he would have said, of her true 
identity, such as it might be. He could n't think of 
it as in itself either very mysterious or very impress- 
ive; but, whatever it was, her duplicity had as yet 
mastered no finer art than his own, inasmuch as she 
had positively not escaped, at table, inadvertently 
dropping a name which, while it lingered on Abel's ear, 
gave her quite away. She had spoken, in her solemn 
sociability and as by the force of old habit, of " Mr. 
Magaw," and nothing was more to be presumed than 
that this gentleman was her defunct husband, not 
so very long defunct, who had permitted her while 
in life the privilege of association with him, but whose 
extinction had left her to be worked upon by different 
ideas. 

These ideas would have germed, infallibly, in the 
brain of the young woman, her only child, under 
whose rigid rule she now — it was to be detected — ■ 

407 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

drew her breath in pain. Madame Massin would 
abysmally know, Abel reflected, for he was at the 
end of a few minutes more intimately satisfied that 
Mrs. Magaw's American newspapers, coming to her 
straight from the other side and not yet detached 
from their wrappers, would not be directed to Mrs. 
Vanderplank, and that, this being the case, the poor 
lady would have had to invent some pretext for a 
claim to goods likely still perhaps to be lawfully 
called for. And she was n't formed for duplicity, 
the large simple scared foolish fond woman, the 
vague anxiety in whose otherwise so uninhabited 
and unreclaimed countenance, as void of all history 
as an expanse of Western prairie seen from a car- 
window, testified to her scant aptitude for her part. 
He was far from the desire to question their host- 
ess, however — for the study of his companion's face 
on its mere inferred merits had begun to dawn upon 
him as the possible resource of his ridiculous leisure. 
He might verily have some fun with her — or he 
would so have conceived it had he not become aware 
before they separated, half an hour later, of a kind 
of fellow-feeling for her that seemed to plead for 
her being spared. She was n't being, in some quarter 
still indistinct to him — and so no more was he, and 
these things were precisely a reason. Her sacrifice, he 
divined, was an act of devotion, a state not yet dis- 
ciplined to the state of confidence. She had presently, 
as from a return of vigilance, gathered in her postal 
property, shuffling it together at her further side 
and covering it with her pocket-handkerchief — 
though this very betrayal indeed but quickened his 

408 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

temporary impulse to break out to her, sympathetic- 
ally, with a " Had you the misfortune to lose Ma- 
gaw ? " or with the effective production of his own 
card and a smiling, an inviting, a consoling "That's 
who / am if you want to know ! " He really made 
out, with the idle human instinct, the crude sense for 
other people's pains and pleasures that had, on his 
showing, to his so great humiliation, been found an 
inadequate outfit for the successful conduct of the 
coal, the commission, the insurance and, as a last 
resort, desperate and disgraceful, the book-agency 
business — he really made out that she did n't want 
to know, or would n't for some little time ; that she 
was decidedly afraid in short, and covertly agitated, 
and all just because she too, with him, suspected 
herself dimly in presence of that mysterious " more " 
than, in the classic phrase, met the eye. They parted 
accordingly, as if to relieve, till they could recover 
themselves, the conscious tension of their being able 
neither to hang back with grace nor to advance with 
glory; but flagrantly full, at the same time, both of 
the recognition that they could n't in such a place 
avoid each other even if they had desired it, and 
of the suggestion that they would n't desire it, after 
such subtlety of communion, even were it to be 
thought of. 

Abel Taker, till dinner-time, turned over his little 
adventure and extracted, while he hovered and smoked 
and mused, some refreshment from the impression 
the subtlety of communion had left with him. Mrs. 
Vanderplank was his senior by several years, and 
was neither fair nor slim nor "bright" nor truly, nor 

409 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

even falsely, elegant, nor anything that Sue had 
taught him, in her wonderful way, to associate with 
the American woman at the American woman's best 
— that best than which there was nothing better, as 
he had so often heard her say, on God's great earth. 
Sue would have banished her to the wildest waste of 
the unknowable, would have looked over her head 
in the manner he had often seen her use — as if she 
were in an exhibition of pictures, were in front of 
something bad and negligible that had got itself 
placed on the line, but that had the real thing, the 
thing of interest for those who knew (and when did n't 
Sue know ?) hung above it. In Mrs. Magaw's pre- 
sence everything would have been of more interest 
to Sue than Mrs. Magaw; but that consciousness 
failed to prevent his feeling the appeal of this inmate 
much rather confirmed than weakened when she re- 
appeared for dinner. It was impressed upon him, 
after they had again seated themselves side by side, 
that she was reaching out to him indirectly, guardedly, 
even as he was to her; so that later on, in the garden, 
where they once more had their coffee together — it 
might have been so free and easy, so wildly foreign, 
so almost Bohemian — he lost all doubt of the vns- 
dom of his taking his plunge. This act of resolution 
was not, like the other he had risked In the morning, 
an upward flutter into fiction, but a straight and 
possibly dangerous dive into the very depths of truth. 
Their instinct was unmistakeably to cling to each 
other, but it was as if they would n't know where to 
take hold till the air had really been cleared. Act- 
ually, in fact, they required a light — the aid prepared 

410 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

by him in the shape of a fresh match for his cigarette 
after he had extracted, under cover of the scented 
dusk, one of his cards from his pocket-book. 

"There I honestly am, you see — Abel F. Taker; 
which I think you ought to know." It was relevant 
to nothing, relevant only to the grope of their talk, 
broken with sudden silences where they stopped 
short for fear of mistakes ; but as he put the card be- 
fore her he held out to it the little momentary flame. 
And this was the way that, after a while and from 
one thing to another, he himself, in exchange for 
what he had to give and what he gave freely, heard 
all about "Mattie" — Mattie Magaw, Mrs. Vander- 
plank's beautiful and high-spirited daughter, who, 
as he learned, found her two names, so dreadful even 
singly, a combination not to be borne, and carried on 
a quarrel with them no less desperate than Sue's 
quarrel with — well, with everything. She had, quite 
as Sue had done, declared her need of a free hand 
to fight them, and she was, for all the world like Sue 
again, now fighting them to the death. This similarity 
of situation was wondrously completed by the fact 
that the scene of Miss Magaw's struggle was, as her 
mother explained, none other than that uppermost 
walk of " high " English life which formed the present 
iield of Mrs. Taker's operations ; a circumstance on 
which Abel presently produced his comment. "Why 
if they 're after the same thing in the same place, I 
wonder if we shan't hear of their meeting." 

Mrs. Magaw appeared for a moment to wonder 
too. "Well, if they do meet I guess we '11 hear. I will 
say for Mattie that she writes me pretty fully. And I 

. 411 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

presume," she went on, "Mrs. Taker keeps you 
posted ? " 

"No," he had to confess — "I don't hear from 
her in much detail. She knows I back her," Abel 
smiled, "and that's enough for her. 'You be quiet 
and I '11 let you know when you 're wanted ' — 
that's her motto; I'm to wait, wherever I am, till 
I 'm called for. But I guess she won't be in a hurry 
to call for me " — this reflexion he showed he was 
familiar with. "I've stood in her light so long — 
her ' social ' light, outside of which everything is for 
Sue black darkness — that I don't really see the 
reason she should ever want me back. That at any 
rate is what I 'm doing — I 'm just waiting. And 
I did n't expect the luck of being able to wait in 
your company. I could n't suppose — that 's the 
truth," he added — "that there was another, any- 
where about, with the same ideas or the same strong 
character. It had never seemed to be possible," he 
ruminated, "that there could be any one Hke Mrs. 
Taker." 

He was to remember afterwards how his companion 
had appeared to consider this approximation. "An- 
other, you mean, like my Mattie ? " 

"Yes — like my Sue. Any one that really comes 
up to her. It will be," he declared, "the first one I 've 
struck." 

"Well," said Mrs. Vanderplank, "my Mattie 's 
remarkably handsome." 

" I 'm sure — ! But Mrs. Taker 's remarkably hand- 
some too. Oh," he added, both with humour and 
with earnestness, "if it was n't for that I would n't 

412 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

trust her so ! Because, for what she wants," he de- 
veloped, "it's a great help to be fine-looking." 

"Ah it's always a help for a lady!" — and Mrs. 
Magaw's sigh fluttered vaguely between the expert 
and the rueful. " But what is it," she asked, " that 
Mrs. Taker wants ? " 

"Well, she could tell you herself. I don't think 
she 'd trust me to give an account of it. Still," he went 
on, " she has stated it more than once for my benefit, 
and perhaps that 's what it all finally comes to. She 
wants to get where she truly belongs." 

Mrs. Magaw had listened with interest. "That's 
just where Mattie wants to get! And she seems to 
know just where it is." 

"Oh Mrs. Taker knows — you can bet your life," 
he laughed, "on that. It seems to be somewhere in 
London or in the country round, and I dare say it 's 
the same place as your daughter's. Once she's there, 
as I understand it, she'll be all right; but she has got 
to get there — that is to be seen there thoroughly fixed 
and photographed, and have it in all the papers — 
first. After she 's fixed, she says, we '11 talk. We have 
talked a good deal : when Mrs. Taker says ' We '11 
talk 'I know what she means. But this time we'll 
have it out." 

There were communities in their fate that made his 
friend turn pale. "Do you mean she won't want you 
to come ? " 

"Well, for me to 'come,' don't you see ? will be for 
me to come to life. How can I come to life when I 've 
been as dead as I am now ? " 

Mrs. Vanderplank looked at him with a dim deli- 

413 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

cacy. " But surely, sir, I 'm not conversing with the 
remains — ! " 

"You're conversing with C. P. Addard. He may 
be alive — but even this I don't know yet; I'm just 
trying him," he said : " I 'm trying him, Mrs. Magaw, 
on you. Abel Taker 's in his grave, but does it strike 
you that Mr. Addard is at all above ground ? " 

He had smiled for the slightly gruesome joke of it, 
but she looked away as if it made her uneasy. Then, 
however, as she came back to him, "Are you going 
to wait here ? " she asked. 

He held her, with some gallantry, in suspense. 
"Are you?" 

She postponed her answer, visibly not quite com- 
fortable now; but they were inevitably the next day 
up to their necks again in the question; and then it was 
that she expressed more of her sense of her situation. 
" Certainly I feel as if I must wait — as long as I 
have to wait. Mattie likes this place — I mean she 
likes it for me. It seems the right sort of place," she 
opined with her perpetual earnest emphasis. 

But it made him sound again the note. "The right 
sort to pass for dead in ? " 

"Oh she does n't want me to pass for dead." 

"Then what does she want you to pass for?" 

The poor lady cast about. "Well, only for Mrs. 
Vanderplank." 

"And who or what is Mrs. Vanderplank?" 

Mrs. Magaw considered this personage, but did n't 
get far. "She is n't any one in particular, I guess." 

"That means," Abel returned, "that she isn't 
alive." 

414 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

"She isn't more than half alive," Mrs. Magaw 
conceded. " But it is n't what \ am — it 's what I 'm 
passing for. Or rather" — she worked it out — 
"what I'm just not. I'm not passing — I don't, 
can't here, where it doesn't matter, you see — for 
her mother." 

Abel quite fell in. "Certainly — she does n't want 
to have any mother." 

"She does n't want to have me. She wants me to lay 
low. If I lay low, she says — " 

"Oh I know what she says" — Abel took it 
straight up. "It's the very same as what Mrs. Taker 
says. If you lie low she can fly high." 

It kept disconcerting her in a manner, as well as 
steadying, his free possession of their case. " I don't 
feel as if I was lying — I mean as low as she wants — 
when I talk to you so." She broke it off thus, and 
again and again, anxiously, responsibly; her sense 
of responsibility making Taker feel, with his braver 
projection of humour, quite ironic and sardonic; 
but as for a week, for a fortnight, for many days more, 
they kept frequently and intimately meeting, it was 
natural that the so extraordinary fact of their being, 
as he put it, in the same sort of box, and of their boxes 
having so even more remarkably bumped together 
under Madame Massin's tilleuls, should n't only 
make them reach out to each other across their queer 
coil of communications, cut so sharp off in other quar- 
ters, but should prevent their pretending to any real 
consciousness but that of their ordeal. It was Abel's 
idea, promptly enough expressed to Mrs. Magaw, 
that they ought to get something out of it; but when 

415 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

he had said that a few times over (the first time she 
had met it in silence), she finally replied, and in a 
manner that he thought quite subHme: "Well, we 
shall — if they do all they want. We shall feel we 've 
helped. And it is n't so very much to do." 

"You think it isn't so very much to do — to lie 
down and die for them ? " 

"Well, if I don't hate it any worse when I 'm really 
dead — ! " She took herself up, however, as if she 
had skirted the profane. " I don't say that if I did n't 
believe in Mat — ! But I do believe, you see. That's 
where she has me." 

"Oh I see more or less. That's where Sue has 
me. 

Mrs. Magaw fixed him with a milder solemnity. 
" But what has Mrs. Taker against you ? " 

"It's sweet of you to ask," he smiled; while it 
really came to him that he was living with her under 
ever so much less strain than what he had been feel- 
ing for ever so long before from Sue. Would n't he 
have liked it to go on and on — would n't that have 
suited C. P. Addard ? He seemed to be finding out 
who C. P. Addard was — so that it came back again 
to the way Sue fixed things. She had fixed them so 
that C. P. Addard could become quite interested in 
Mrs. Vanderplank and quite soothed by her — and 
so that Mrs. Vanderplank as well, wonderful to say, 
had lost her impatience for Mattie's summons a good 
deal more, he was sure, than she confessed. It was 
from this moment none the less that he began, with 
a strange but distinct little pang, to see that he 
could n't be sure of her. Her question had produced 

416 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

in him a vibration of the sensibility that even the long 
series of mortifications, of publicly proved inapti- 
tudes, springing originally from his lack of business 
talent, but owing an aggravation of aspect to an ab- 
sence of nameable "type" of which he had n't been 
left unaware, was n't to have wholly toughened. Yet 
it struck him positively as the prettiest word ever 
spoken to him, so straight a surprise at his wife's dis- 
satisfaction ; and he was verily so unused to tributes 
to his adequacy that this one lingered in the air a mo- 
ment and seemed almost to create a possibility. He 
wondered, honestly, what she could see in him, in 
whom Sue now at last saw really less than nothing; 
and his fingers instinctively moved to his moustache, 
a corner of which he twiddled up again, also wonder- 
ing if it were perhaps only that — though Sue had 
as good as told him that the undue flourish of this 
feature but brought out to her view the insignificance 
of all the rest of him. Just to hang in the iridescent 
ether with Mrs. Vanderplank, to whom he was n't 
insignificant, just for them to sit on there together, 
protected, indeed positively ennobled, by their loss 
of identity, struck him as the foretaste of a kind of 
felicity that he had n't in the past known enough 
about really to miss it. He appeared to have become 
aware that he should miss it quite sharply, that he 
would find how he had already learned to, if she should 
go ; and the very sadness of his apprehension quick- 
ened his vision of what would work with her. She 
would want, with all the roundness of her kind, plain 
eyes, to see Mattie fixed — whereas he 'd be hanged 
if he was n't willing, on his side, to take Sue's eleva- 

417 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

tion quite on trust. For the Instant, however, he said 
nothing of that; he only followed up a little his ac- 
knowledgement of her having touched him. "What 
you ask me, you know, is just what I myself was going 
to ask. What has Miss Magaw got against you ? " 

" Well, if you were to see her I guess you 'd know." 

"Why I should think she'd like to show you," 
said Abel Taker, 

" She does n't so much mind their seeing me — 
when once she has had a look at me first. But she 
does n't like them to hear me — though I don't talk 
so very much. Mattie speaks in the real English 
style," Mrs. Magaw explained. 

"But ain't the real English style not to speak at 
all?" 

"Well, she's having the best kind of time, she 
writes me — so I presume there must be some talk 
in which she can shine." 

"Oh I've no doubt at all Miss Magaw talks!" 
— and Abel, in his contemplative way, seemed to 
have it before him. 

" Well, don't you go and believe she talks too much," 
his companion rejoined with spirit; and this it was 
that brought to a head his prevision of his own fate. 

" I see what 's going to happen. You only want to 
go to her. You want to get your share, after all. 
You '11 leave me without a pang." 

Mrs. Magaw stared. "But won't you be going 
too ? When Mrs. Taker sends for you ? " 

He shook, as by a rare chance, a competent head. 
"Mrs. Taker won't send for me. I don't make out 
the use Mrs. Taker can ever have for me again." 

418 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

Mrs. Magaw looked grave. "But not to enjoy 
your seeing — ? " 

"My seeing where she has come out? Oh that 
won't be necessary to her enjoyment of it. It 
would be well enough perhaps if I could see with- 
out being seen ; but the trouble with me — for I 'm 
worse than you," Abel said — "is that it doesn't 
do for me either to be heard or seen. I have n't 
got any side — ! " But it dropped; it was too old a 
story. 

"Not any possible side at all ?" his friend, in her 
candour, doubtingly echoed . " Why what do they want 
over there ? " 

It made him give a comic pathetic wail. "Ah to 
know a person who says such things as that to me, 
and to have to give her up — ! " 

She appeared to consider with a certain alarm 
what this might portend, and she really fell back 
before it. "Would you think I'd be able to give 
up Mattie?" 

"Why not — if she's successful? The thing you 
would n't like — you would n't, I 'm sure — would 
be to give her up if she should find, or if you should 
find, she was n't." 

"Well, I guess Mattie will be successful," said Mrs. 
Magaw. 

"Ah you 're a worshipper of success ! " he groaned. 
"I'd give Mrs. Taker up, definitely, just to remain 
C. P. Addard with you." 

She allowed it her thought; but, as he felt, super- 
ficially. "She's your wife, sir, you know, whatever 
you do." 

419 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

"'Mine' ? Ah but whose ? She is n't C. P. Add- 
ard's." 

She rose at this as if they were going too far; yet 
she showed him, he seemed to see, the first Httle con- 
cession — which was indeed to be the only one — 
of her inner timidity ; something that suggested how 
she must have preserved as a token, laid away among 
spotless properties, the visiting-card he had originally 
handed her. "Well, I guess the one I feel for is 
Abel F. Taker!" 

This, in the end, however, made no difference; 
since one of the things that inevitably came up be- 
tween them was that if Mattie had a quarrel with her 
name her most workable idea would be to get some- 
body to give her a better. That, he easily made out, 
was fundamentally what she was after, and, though, 
delicately and discreetly, as he felt, he did n't reduce 
Mrs. Vanderplank to so stating the case, he finally 
found himself believing in Miss Magaw with just as 
few reserves as those with which he believed in Sue. 
If it was a question of her "shining" she would 
indubitably shine; she was evidently, like the wife 
by whom he had been, in the early time, too pro- 
vincially, too primitively accepted, of the great ra- 
diating substance, and there were times, here at 
Madame Massin's, while he strolled to and fro and 
smoked, when Mrs. Taker's distant lustre fairly 
peeped at him over the opposite mountain-tops, 
fringing their silhouettes as with the little hard bright 
rim of a coming day. It was clear that Mattie's mother 
could n't be expected not to want to see her married ; 
the shade of doubt bore only on the stage of the busi- 

420 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

ness at which Mrs. Magaw might safely be let out of 
the box. Was she to emerge abruptly as Mrs. Ma- 
gaw ? — or was the lid simply to be tipped back so that, 
for a good look, she might sit up a little straighter ? 
She had got news at any rate, he inferred, which sug- 
gested to her that the term of her suppression was in 
sight; and she even let it out to him that, yes, cer- 
tainly, for Mattie to be ready for her — and she did 
look as if she were going to be ready — she must be 
right down sure. They had had further lights by 
this time moreover, lights much more vivid always 
in Mattie's bulletins than in Sue's; which latter, as 
Abel insistently imaged it, were really each time, on 
Mrs. Taker's part, as limited as a peep into a death- 
chamber. The death-chamber was Madame Massin's 
terrace; and — he completed the image — how could 
Sue not want to know how things were looking for 
the funeral, which was in any case to be thoroughly 
"quiet"? The vivid thing seemed to pass before 
Abel's eyes the day he heard of the bright compa- 
triot, just the person to go round with, a charming 
handsome witty widow, whom Miss Magaw had met 
at Fordham Castle, whose ideas were, on all import- 
ant points, just the same as her own, whose means 
also (so that they could join forces on an equality) 
matched beautifully, and whose name in fine was 
Mrs. Sherrington Reeve. "Mattie has felt the want," 
Mrs. Magaw explained, "of some lady, some real 
lady like that, to go round with : she says she some- 
times does n't find it very pleasant going round 
alone." 
Abel Taker had listened with interest — this in- 
421 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

formation left him staring. "By Gosh then, she has 
struck Sue!" 

"'Struck'Mrs. Taker — ?" 

"She isn't Mrs. Taker now — she's Mrs. Sher- 
rington Reeve." It had come to him with all its force 
— as if the glare of her genius were, at a bound, high 
over the summits. "Mrs. Taker's dead: I thought, 
you know, all the while, she must be, and this makes 
me sure. She died at Fordham Castle. So we 're both 
dead." 

His friend, however, with her large blank face, 
lagged behind. "At Fordham Castle too — died 
there?" 

"Why she has been as good as living there ! " Abel 
Taker emphasised. "'Address Fordham Castle' — 
that 's about all she has written me. But perhaps she 
died before she went " — he had it before him, he 
made it out. "Yes, she must have gone as Mrs. Sher- 
rington Reeve. She had to die to go — as it would be 
for her like going to heaven. Marriages, sometimes, 
they say, are made up there; and so, sometimes then, 
apparently, are friendships — that, you see, for in- 
stance, of our two shining ones." 

Mrs. Magaw's understanding was still in the shade. 
" But are you sure — ? " 

"Why Fordham Castle settles it. If she wanted to 
get where she truly belongs she has got there. She 
belongs at Fordham Castle." 

The noble mass of this structure seemed to rise at 
his words, and his companion's grave eyes, he could 
see, to rest on its towers. " But how has she become 
Mrs. Sherrington Reeve ? " 

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FORDHAM CASTLE 

"By my death. And also after that by her own. I 
had to die first, you see, for her to be able to — that Is 
for her to be sure. It 's what she has been looking for, 
as I told you — to he sure. But oh — she was sure 
from the first. She knew I 'd die off, when she had 
made it all right for me — so she felt no risk. She 
simply became, the day I became C. P. Addard, some- 
thing as different as possible from the thing she had 
always so hated to be. She 's what she always would 
have liked to be — so why should n't we rejoice for 
her ? Her baser part, her vulgar part, has ceased to be, 
and she lives only as an angel." 

It affected his friend, this elucidation, almost with 
awe; she took it at least, as she took everything, 
stolidly. "Do you call Mrs. Taker an angel ?" 

Abel had turned about, as he rose to the high vision, 
moving, with his hands in his pockets, to and fro. But 
at Mrs. Magaw's question he stopped short — he 
considered with his head in the air. " Yes — now ! " 
" But do you mean it 's her idea to marry ? " 
He thought again. "Why for all I know she is 
married." 

"With you, Abel Taker, living?" 
"But I ain't Hving. That's just the point." 
"Oh you're too dreadful" — and she gathered 
herself up. "And I won't," she said as she broke off, 
" help to bury you ! " 

This office, none the less, as she practically had 
herself to acknowledge, was in a manner, and before 
many days, forced upon her by further important in- 
formation from her daughter, in the light of the true 
inevitability of which they had, for that matter, been 

423 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

living. She was there before him with her telegram, 
which she simply held out to him as from a heart too 
full for words. " Am engaged to Lord Dunderton, and 
Sue thinks you can come." 

Deep emotion sometimes confounds the mind — 
and Mrs. Magaw quite flamed with excitement. But 
on the other hand it sometimes illumines, and she 
could see, it appeared, what Sue meant. "It's be- 
cause he's so much in love." 

" So far gone that she 's safe ? " Abel frankly asked. 

"So far gone that she's safe." 

"Well," he said, "if Sue feels it — !" He had so 
much, he showed, to go by. "Sue knows." 

Mrs. Magaw visibly yearned, but she could look at 
all sides. " I 'm bound to say, since you speak of it, 
that I 've an idea Sue has helped. She '11 like to have 
her there." 

"Mattie will like to have Sue ?" 

"No, Sue will like to have Mattie." Elation raised 
to such a point was in fact already so clarifying that 
Mrs. Magaw could come all the way. "As Lady 
Dunderton." 

"Well," Abel smiled, "one good turn deserves 
another ! " If he meant it, however, in any such sense 
as that Mattie might be able in due course to render 
an equivalent of aid, this notion clearly had to reckon 
with his companion's sense of its strangeness, ex- 
hibited in her now at last upheaved countenance. 
"Yes," he accordingly insisted, "it will work round 
to that — you see if it does n't. If that 's where they 
were to come out, and they have come — by which 
I mean if Sue has realised it for Mattie and acted 

424 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

as she acts when she does realise, then she can't 
neglect it in her own case : she '11 just have to realise 
it for herself. And, for that matter, you '11 help her 
too. You '11 be able to tell" her, you know, that you 've 
seen the last of me." And on the morrow, when, 
starting for London, she had taken her place in the 
train, to which he had accompanied her, he stood 
by the door of her compartment and repeated this 
idea. " Remember, for Mrs. Taker, that you 've seen 
the last — !" 

"Oh but I hope I have n't, sir." 

"Then you '11 come back to me ? If you only will, 
you know, Sue will be delighted to fix it." 

"To fix it — how?" 

"Well, she'll tell you how. You've seen how she 
can fix things, and that will be the way, as I say, 
you'll help her." 

She stared at him from her corner, and he could see 
she was sorry for him ; but it was as if she had taken 
refuge behind her large high-shouldered reticule, 
which she held in her lap, presenting it almost as a 
bulwark. "Mr. Taker," she launched at him over 
it, "I'm afraid of you." 

"Because I'm dead?" 

"Oh sir!" she pleaded, hugging her morocco de- 
fence. But even through this alarm her finer thought 
came out. "Do you suppose I shall go to Fordham 
Castle?" 

"Well, I guess that's what they're discussing now. 
You'll know soon enough." 

"If I write you from there," she asked, "won't you 
come ? " 

425 



FORDHAM CASTLE 

" I '11 come as the ghost. Don't old castles always 
have one ? " 

She looked at him darkly; the train had begun to 
move. " I shall fear you ! " she said. 

"Then there you are." And he moved an instant 
beside the door. " You '11 be glad, w^hen you get there, 
to be able to say — " But she got out of hearing, and, 
turning av^ay, he felt as abandoned as he had knovpn 
he should — felt left, in his solitude, to the sense of his 
extinction. He faced it completely now, and to him- 
self at least could express it without fear of protest. 
"Why certainly I'm dead."